South Africa eases ban, allows partial mining under virus lockdown

By: AFP      Published: 08:50 PM, 16 Apr, 2020
South Africa eases ban, allows partial mining under virus lockdown
A volunteer from the Rays of Light NGO (R) delivers food and cleaning products to an elderly woman living alone in Alexandra, Johannesburg. AFP

South Africa's government on Thursday partially eased a ban that had been imposed on mining to fight coronavirus, allowing for partial resumption of operations under strict conditions, the mines minister said. 

"Mining operations... shall be conducted at a reduced capacity of 50 percent during the period of the lockdown, and thereafter at increasing capacity as determined" by cabinet, said Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.

Conditions for resuming work include stringent screening and testing of workers, and the quarantining any detected cases. "We must maintain a risk-based approach," the minister told a news conference.

Mining is a key sector in Africa's most industrialised economy, accounting for eight percent of GDP in 2018. The sector is also a major employer, with more than 450,000 people on the payroll, and a crucial foreign-exchange earner.

South Africa is the continent's largest producer of gold and the world's top platinum miner. Mining companies welcomed the move. "It is Minerals Council's view that government has adopted a pragmatic and practical approach to fighting the pandemic and enabling the economy to survive the crisis," said Roger Baxter, CEO of the council, which represents mining giants.

South Africa is under a five-week lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus, which has so far infected more than 2,500 people, killing 34 of them.

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