Return Of Foreign Mineworkers Delayed As SA’s April Mining Output Plummets

DELAYS in re-opening borders between South Africa and neighbouring states meant foreign mineworkers would be unable to return to the country this week.
“We hope to get the first few through next week,” said Niks Lesufi who is senior executive for environment, health and legacies at the Minerals Council South Africa.
Commenting during a council COVID-19 update today, Lesufi said one of the difficulties was in trying to get multiple border posts open simultaneously.
“We are expecting 4,000 mineworkers from Mozambique and there is only one border post open. We are also expecting 12,000 from Lesotho and there is one border post open,” said Lesufi. “We are trying to make sure we can get an equitable distribution (through multiple border posts)”.
Asked for the council’s latest expectations regarding how well the mining sector will recover from the economic contraction as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, chief economist Henk Langenhoven said a 13% contraction in production, as per April’s month-on-month decline, was likely for the year. A worse case scenario would be a 20% production fall.
“It depends how quickly the recovery can take place. SARS (South African Revenue Service) provided data on April on export sales and it doesn’t give a good picture (of demand). Overall there’s been a dramatic decline in sales,” he said.
South African mining output dropped the most since at least 1981 in April, when the first full month of restrictions to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic brought almost all economic activity to a halt, said Bloomberg Quint today citing Statistics South Africa.
Total production decreased 47.3% from a year earlier, compared with an 18% decrease in March, said Statistics South Africa. The median estimate of four economists in a Bloomberg survey was for a contraction of 59.4%. Output fell 34.1% in the month, the newswire said.
The production of platinum group metals fell 62% from a year earlier, gold output dropped 59.6%, and iron ore fell 68.7%.
There were only 25 positive cases of COVID-19 on the premises of AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng mine west of Johannesburg that were “still active”, said Dr Thuthula Balfour, head of health and the Minerals Council South Africa
“We are happy to report that of the 214 cases at AngloGold, 189 have recovered and only 25 cases are active and of these there is no-one who is ill in that group,” she said. An outbreak of COVID-19 at Mponeng, first reported on May 24, has so far been the highest profile occurrence of the disease on South African mines.
According to council’s statistics, however, there has been an increase in positive cases of the disease at mines operating in the country’s North West province.
Of the 821 cases in the country’s mining sector, 303 were at North West which was a function of one company testing all its employees which is outside of the National Institute for Communicable Disease (NICD) guidelines. “When you test everyone, there is a higher occurrence of positive cases but most of them is asymptomatic,” said Balfour.
There were 403 positive cases of COVID-19 in Gauteng province, 89 in Limpopo province and 19 in Mpumalanga province of which 15 cases were reported in the coal sector. The coal sector was largely kept open throughout the lockdown period