DURBAN – Although close to a half of the total coronavirus cases in the North West were in the mining industry, the Minerals Council South Africa says mining was not the epicentre of Covid-19.
North West cases have almost tripled its numbers in just a week.
According to the council, the narrative that the mining industry is an “epicentre” is often raised by newspaper reports or government officials who often lack a proper understanding of the precautionary processes implemented by the industry.
“These assertions are not only inaccurate but serve to spread fear among mine-workers and the communities in which they reside or come from. The higher proportion of infections in the sector compared to the population as a function of its vigorous screening, testing and contract tracing regime.
In the latest figures, the mining industry has recorded 679 Covid-19 cases – Gauteng leads with 294 cases; it is followed by North West and then Limpopo with 75.
With 28 operating mines in the Sekhukhune region after many weeks of zero cases, the district’s cases skyrocketed and have become the epicentre of coronavirus infections in Limpopo. On the first day that the mines were reopened, 13 mine-workers tested positive for Covid-19 at Marula Platinum Mine, in Driekop outside Burgersfort.
While the council concedes that there have been more Covid-19 infections diagnosed in mining, the sector argues that if the rest of the population were being scanned and, if necessary, tested at the same intensity as mining, there would be a sharp rise in reported cases in other parts of the economy and society.
“It is correct that there have been more Covid-19 infections diagnosed in mining as a proportion of the workforce than positive diagnoses as a proportion of the population as a whole. However, as an epidemiological phenomenon, it is also no different from trends seen in other workplaces and in particular communities. Clusters of infections occur in many different places,” read the statement.
However, it is a mistake to assume from this that mining is more prone to the spread of the virus than the population as a whole.
The focus should be on our collective effort in preventing the spread of the virus, supporting those who have contracted the virus and addressing the economic consequences of this pandemic,” said a statement from the council.
All in all, 235 513 mine-workers operating in 385 mines have been screened in South Africa. Of these, 7 988 have been tested, according to Minerals Council data.
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