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Unions 'condemn panic' as some South Africa mines restart

Unions in South Africa have condemned the panic caused by workers being called back as some mines resume while the extended nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19 continues.

Staff reporter
 Impala Platinum set to ramp up operations in South Africa

Impala Platinum set to ramp up operations in South Africa

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Sibanye-Stillwater said it had received approval to restart limited mining and processing at its South Africa operations this week, while Impala Platinum is believed to have also asked employees to report for duty on April 14. 

In images shared on social media, a text message and letter said to be from Impala Rustenburg CEO Mark Munroe urged team members to return to work, saying the operation had received permission to ramp up from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.

Implats had said on March 30 it would seek permission to conduct limited operations "under agreed precautionary measures".

The Congress of South African Trade Unions, which describes itself as the country's largest federation, indicated it was unhappy with the development.

"COSATU North West joins NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] to condemn panic imposed by Impala mine in Rustenburg by calling workers back to work during the #Covid19 lockdown," the federation tweeted.

People have also been voicing concerns about operations restarting during the lockdown to the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa.

Meanwhile South Africa-based Buffalo Coal said it had resumed limited operations yesterday after being granted permission to recommence mining activities at 30% of operating capacity.

It said the extended lockdown would have "a considerable negative impact" on the company's mining operations.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last week extended the country's 21-day lockdown, due to end on April 16, to the end of the month .

The Minerals Council South Africa reiterated yesterday it had been engaging with the department and unions "to establish a way forward on how to work safely under the constraints of COVID-19".

It has developed a Standard Operating Procedure providing guidelines for the management of healthcare workers and employees returning to work at the end of the lockdown.

It said the council and its members "recognise the principles underlying the government's decision to extend the lockdown by two weeks" and noted any applications for operating exemptions were being made by the companies to the department, not through the MCSA.

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