Mining operations to be ‘scaled down’ as South Africa goes into lockdown

A large proportion of the South African mining industry will grind to a halt today as the country enters a 21-day lockdown to limit the spread of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe announced yesterday that mining operations are to be ‘scaled down significantly’ during the three-week lockdown, particularly labour-intensive, deep-level mining activities.

“Production in the gold, chrome, manganese and other sectors will be scaled down; while the processing of surface material in the platinum group metals sector will continue for the production of – among others – medical products,” said Mantashe.

However, mines supplying coal to South Africa’s beleaguered power utility Eskom will continue to operate, albeit at reduced production rates. Smelters that cannot be switched off entirely for technical or economic reasons will also remain operational at reduced levels.

Essential services supporting the sector, including security and related infrastructure, maintenance, water pumping, refrigeration and ventilation will continue, while mineral exports will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis by the National Command Council.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced South Africa’s three-week lockdown on Monday after the count of COVID-19 infections increased by 128 in only 24 hours, with the total number of cases now standing at 709.