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The country's mines have been allowed to ramp up to 50% as the nation's lockdown continues to April 30, although the matter is being challenged in court by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union which wants binding regulations put in place to protect mineworkers.
The restart has also brought confusion over what the 50% referred to - which was clarified last week as 50% of the workforce not production - and was poorly communicated, with Impala Platinum facing charges for recalling workers during the lockdown.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has said South Africa would begin "a gradual and phased recovery of economic activity" beyond April 30, saying people needed to eat and earn a living.
Mantashe had made surprise visits to mine sites earlier in the lockdown, when only collieries supplying Eskom were allowed to keep operating and some mines were applying to continue at a reduced capacity.
He and senior Department of Mineral Resources and Energy officials said they made unannounced visits on Saturday to mining operations in Rustenburg, North West, to monitor compliance with lockdown regulations, guiding principles on prevention and management of COVID-19 and the start-up procedure.
"We must protect the lives and livelihoods of our people," Mantashe said.
The AMCU said there were more than half a million mineworkers in South Africa and it's concerned the current regulations are "woefully inadequate" to protect them from COVID-19. The matter is set to return to court tomorrow.
One social media user recommended Mantashe go underground and see what happens with "100 in a cage" travelling to the lower levels.
Health minister Dr Zwelini Mkhize said yesterday the country had 4,793 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 90 deaths.