World’s deepest mines to take weeks to open after lockdown – by Felix Njini (Bloomberg/Moneyweb – April 10, 2020)

When South Africa shut down its mining industry to contain the coronavirus, more than 450 000 workers were sent home in 24 hours. Getting them back will take much longer for the nation’s gold and platinum miners.

Ramping up production at the world’s deepest mines could take three to four weeks as thousands of returning employees are screened for Covid-19, according to Johan Theron, a spokesman for Impala Platinum. Workers will need to be checked for high temperatures, while social distancing and other measures are introduced to prevent the spread of the virus, he said.

“Its going to take time to get going again,” Theron said. “The queue is going to be 40 kilometres long.”

President Cyril Ramaphosa ordered the 21-day mine closure as part of a nationwide lockdown. Mineworkers are particularly vulnerable, toiling in cramped shafts more than two miles underground, before returning to overcrowded hostels and shanty towns.

The situation is exacerbated by South Africa having the largest number of people with HIV in the world and widespread tuberculosis. “Everybody in the industry is considering how to manage the situation around vulnerable workers,” said James Wellsted, a spokesman for Sibanye Stillwater, the No 1 platinum miner.

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