Positive coronavirus outbreak affects mining and energy sector, Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe, has verified that the sector has been strongly affected by the coronavirus outbreak, citing three positive cases in various provinces.
Addressing the nation with updates regarding the coronavirus lockdown, Mantashe, on Friday, explained the effect on the mining and energy industry. The minister said that while mining operations had been reduced, supply, particularly of coal to feed the country’s electricity needs, continued without serious disturbance.
With the mining sector in mind, Mantashe focused on preventative measures undertaken by conglomerates to reduce the virus’ spread. As a result of many site visits earlier in the week, Mantashe revealed that while most mining operations had successfully stuck to better hygiene practices and rules, some sites had failed to safeguard workers.
“We found that the mines are not at the same level in terms of their state of readiness to respond to COVID-19. There are some pockets of excellence, while others are lagging behind. We have encouraged mines to work together, in sharing information and best practice” Mantashe said.
The minister said that inspectors from the mineral resources and energy department would redouble their efforts to ensure compliance and bring defaulters to book.
Within the energy sector, fuel supply has remained a constant priority. Mantashe disclosed that, despite the inherent challenges given by the national lockdown, supply to refineries has been kept consistent. Speaking of coal supply to embattled power utility, Eskom, Mantashe praised the fact that load shedding has been kept at bay.
The news of relative stability, in comparison to other economic sectors in the country, was moistened by confirmation of positive coronavirus cases in the mining and energy industry. Mantashe explained on the virus’ spread within the vital sector, saying “ There are currently three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the mining and energy sectors one each in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Western Cape”.
Mantashe called on the sector to make the employees their first priority above profits and to focus on the stringent health and safety precautions.