The unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic brought to light the South African mining industry’s preparedness and response in dealing with health and safety issues.
Mining is a high risk-business which requires unwavering commitment to health and safety and putting its most important assets – its people – first.
Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat), under the leadership of CEO Steve Phiri, stood out as a beacon during the COVID-19 pandemic with its quick response and commitment to fighting the pandemic – not only to protect its employees but also to protect the members of the communities in which it operates.
“Steve’s leadership of Royal Bafokeng Platinum during the global pandemic, and the different initiatives set out to protect staff and communities from the pandemic, combined with robust corporate citizenship, is impressive.” – Marcus Courage
RBPlat is a mid-tier platinum group metals (PGMs) producer, mining the Merensky and UG2 reefs on the Boschkoppie, Styldrift and Frischgewaagd farms, which are located on the Western Limb of the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa near the town of Rustenburg.
The company’s strategy is underpinned by its aspiration of achieving “more than mining” and this strategy rings true when considering the company’s readiness and efforts in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic in the North West Province – an area which was hit hard by the virus.
As a first step in fighting the COVID-29 pandemic, RBPlat established the RBPlat COVID-19 Co-ordination Committee to help navigate the company through the pandemic while also implementing a number of precautionary steps at its operations to protect the health and safety of its employees, contractors, partners and suppliers.
Thereafter, the company together with the North West Provincial Department of Health opened a 200-bed Royal Bafokeng Platinum Field Hospital in Rustenburg, at a cost of approximately R10 million, to provide initial COVID-19 medical treatment to its employees and the surrounding communities.
Working with the North West Provincial Department of Health and the Bojanala District Health Department, RBPlat converted its unused Maseve mine’s South Shaft Change House in the North West Province into a 2 940 m², five-ward, field hospital.
In addition to this, RBPlat pledged R3 million to support its local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. Support included food hampers and hygiene care packs, e-learning educational support tools for matric learners and educators, body heat screening devices for communities and for the sanitising of taxis that support the transport needs of the company’s employees to and from work.
Moreover, RBPlat has an ongoing and intensive community member screening programme in place to assist with screening of households as well as contact tracing to prevent the spread of the virus.
Steve’s commitment to looking after the company’s people and communities is perfectly encapsulated in his statement:
“We believe in ‘People First’ and keeping our people safe is important to us.
“This means ensuring a safe and healthy working environment for our employees, in line with the regulations of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy; and ensuring that our operations follow strict
health and safety protocols of screening, testing and providing all the necessary support to ensure good hygiene whilst at work.
“We recognise that in order to make a real impact in our communities, we have to have a shared responsibility and work together with government and other private sector companies to support our communities during this time of the COVID-19 pandemic.”