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Kumba explains operating during lockdown

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The community raised concerns that safety measures put in place at the workplace for migrant workers would not provide protection for the local community.

KUMBA Iron Ore mine has confirmed that mining operations started on Wednesday last week (April 1) after approval was granted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), with strict conditions.

A media statement from Sinah Phochana, spokesperson for Anglo American, indicated that while permission was granted for continued operations over the 21-day nationwide lockdown period, it specified that operations could only take place on a scaled-down basis.

This follows concern among the communities of Kathu and Postmasburg that miners travelling from other provinces over the lockdown period to report for duty at the mine could put locals at risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The mine based its decision to continue operations on President Cyril Ramaphosa and the Minister of Minerals and Energy’s pronouncement that companies producing for export markets would be considered for exemption on a case-by-case basis.

In line with South African government requirements, Kumba started to implement all appropriate measures across its operations, with a focus on de-densification and scaling down to a 50% level of workforce.

Kumba has further promised that all remaining staff who are at home over the lockdown period will receive their full basic salary for the 21 days and that additional allowances will be provided to those who are at work.

The community raised concerns that safety measures put in place at the workplace for migrant workers would not provide protection for the local community.

Calls were made to the mine to roll out its safety plans, aimed at workers, to cover members of the local community and protect them from the virus.

“Kumba’s priority is the safety, health and well-being of our employees, contractors and host communities. We have conducted a health risk assessment and put measures and critical controls in place to curb the spread of the virus in our operations and our communities,” Phochana said on Wednesday.

“Kumba fully supports the proactive measures the government is taking to curb the spread of Covid-19 in South Africa.

“We are deeply aware of how much our communities depend on us and that we have an obligation to consider them in everything we do.”

According to Phochana, the mine was granted the exemption with conditions that it continues mining with a reduced workforce.

She highlighted the ability of the mine to operate safely, with the recommended social and physical distancing, due to it being open cast and mechanised.

The mine’s working relationship with the government is also believed to have played a role in the granting of the exemption, whereby vital public services such as water and health support to the municipalities and communities are delivered.

“While our operations deliver vital tax revenue for the government, because we are by far the largest private employer in the Northern Cape province and supporter of local business, the towns depend to a very large degree on our operations continuing – even in reduced form.

“This pandemic is of great concern to all South Africans who fear for their physical and financial well-being. As Kumba we are committed to doing all we can in partnership with government, civil society and our local partners to cushion the impact of the pandemic on our community and our people.”