Royal Bafokeng Platinum, or RBPlat, has been granted permission by government to phase in mining capacity to 50% during South Africa’s extended lockdown.
The company placed its operations on care and maintenance, with only essential services in place for the duration of the lockdown, following the President of South Africa’s declaration of a national 21-day lockdown starting at midnight from 26 March 2020 until 16 April 2020.
On 9 April 2020, the President announced a further two weeks extension to the lockdown beyond the initial 21 days resulting in most of the existing lockdown measures remaining in force until 30 April 2020.
While RBPlat remains fully supportive of the President’s decision to enforce a nationwide lockdown in an attempt to fundamentally disrupt the chain of COVID-19 transmission, the company will recommence its operations on 20 April 2020, at a reduced level.
This will enable the company to de-risk its underground operations from large scale “lapse of time”, induced falls of ground posing a safety risk and short to medium term economic viability of its underground mining operations.
The company said in a statement that this is not a decision it has taken lightly, “however we believe that it is the right decision to safeguard our business and the livelihood of our employees.”
“We are committed to ensuring that all practicable measures to reduce the risk, exposure and spread of COVID-19 pandemic as envisaged by the President are implemented to secure the wellbeing of our employees.
“As an industry, we have had regular engagement with government through the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to ensure the wellbeing of our communities as well as discussing mitigating strategies to limit the economic ramifications of the pandemic.
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“As a Company, our biggest assets are our people and we will continue to uphold our value of ‘People first’ and ensure that every precaution to safeguard their health is implemented,” the company said.
The safety measures and protocols currently in place include the following:
- An established task team to monitor, manage and control ongoing operational requirements. The team meets daily with updates to the CEO;
- A dynamic COVID-19 action plan;
- The communication and enforcement of strict social distancing rules and practices;
- The development and implementation of extensive training, awareness and communication programmes, which include various digital platforms, posters and mobile SMS messaging;
- Body temperature screening at all strategic access points to the operations;
- Dedicated hand sanitising points to and from key access areas;
- Disinfection of all turnstiles across the operations;
- Suspension of all biometric access – access control solely via clock card;
- Regular updates to all employees about any new developments;
- A fully staffed and 24/7 operational clinic;
- Continual reinforcement of the importance of good hygiene;
- A detailed issue-based risk assessment dealing specifically with the COVID-19 risks associated with the planned ramp-up has been developed and approved;
- Implementation of a health programme for the vulnerable which includes flu immunisation and vitamin supplementation;
- Provision of a six-month supply of pre-packed chronic medication to vulnerable employees that are on Platinum Health medical aid;
- Ongoing disinfection of all cages, chairlifts, change houses, lamp rooms and traveling ways to and from these areas (including all hand rails leading to and from these areas);
- Installation of ultra violet lights in all boardrooms and main meeting rooms;
- Evaluation of sanitisation tunnels is currently underway and if found suitable will be rolled out to strategic access points at our operations where practicable;
- Identification of quarantine facilities for our employees; and
- In cases where employees are transported to and from operations, the following will be implemented:
– enforcement of rules of social distancing
– regular disinfection of buses and
– compulsory facemasks for all employees embarking onto the buses.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe adverse, social and economic impact globally and locally which RBPlat has not been immune to.
RBPlat employee support
“In order to mitigate the impact on the livelihood of our employees and their families during this difficult time we took a decision to pay our employees their salaries for the initial 21-day lockdown period including medical aid and pension contributions and where applicable homeowners allowances and living out allowances.
However, the company’s executive committee and senior management have voluntarily waived 33% of their salary during the lockdown period.
At this stage it is not possible to give an accurate estimate of the financial impact that the pandemic will have on the group as the situation remains fast changing but various scenarios have been analysed and appropriate measures will be taken.
“These are unprecedented times in which we believe that COVID-19 pandemic will be a part of our operating environment for some time to come. We will continue to focus on the wellbeing of our employees and the communities in which we operate while also ensuring the sustainability of our business,” the company said.