COVID-19 and the PGM industry
SOUTH AFRICA - mining providing critical support
COVID-19 will remain a health threat across the world for a foreseeable future. The PGM industry in South Africa has identified and kick-started projects that can offer support to employees, communities, and to government to make a real difference during this difficult time.
Mining companies, through bodies like the Minerals Council, are working closely with the Department of Health (DoH) and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), to prevent and contain the spread of the disease, beyond the special measures implemented by government. The mining industry accepts its developmental role in society and has initiated a range of actions, jointly, independently or in cooperation with government, provincial and district authorities, to address the impact of COVID-19 on employees and communities.
In the mines, employees often work together in confined spaces, especially underground, which makes it dfficult to maintain a safe distance between them. The PGM miners in South Africa are strongly supportive of the government’s vaccine roll-out strategy and collaborate closely with the DMRE and unions to achieve a smooth roll-out of vaccines at the mines and in mining communities, and to increase vaccine acceptance through education and communication.
Mining companies Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum have commenced workplace vaccinations of the Covid-19 vaccine after they had received approval from health authorities to conduct inoculations at their medical facilities.
All vaccination sites operate under the procedures of the National Department of Health (NDoH) with respect to registration of sites, loading of workers onto the Electronic Vaccination System (EVDS), procurement of vaccines from government and delivery of vaccination services according to the age bands decided by government. No private sector companies, including mining companies, acquire vaccines independently.
The mining sector has expressed interest in extending vaccinations to mining communities and families of employees, but this move would require government's approval.
Member companies continued to pay salaries and wages of employees who were compelled to stay away from the workplace, at least for all or most of the first phase of the lockdown.
Financial and non-financial support has been provided or pledged for the following:
Health & Safety
- Provision of equipment for testing facilities and body heat screening devices for communities.
- Provision and/or purchasing of personal protective equipment (PPE) and critical medical equipment for health and social development personnel in the field, and in hospitals and clinics.
- Installation of a 200-bed field hospital in Rustenburg to provide initial COVID-19 medical treatment and isolation facilities to employees and communities to supplement the overburdened government resources.
- Securing beds at facilities for a) returning employees coming from high risk areas that need to be isolated for two weeks, b) employees that have been in contact with infected employees and must be quarantined, c) isolating employees with mild symptoms who cannot isolate at home, and d) hospitalised employees who need medical treatment.
- Medical App to screen, trace and educate employees.
- Access to mine ambulances and paramedics.
- Increasing COVID-19 awareness communication through radio, print and social media as well as through installing community billboards around operations to improve self-care and good hygiene as first line of defence against the spread of the virus.
Example: Field hospital built by Royal Bafokeng Platinum
Royal Bafokeng Platinum (RBPlat), together with the North West Provincial Department of Health, has opened the 200-bed Royal Bafokeng Platinum Field Hospital in Rustenburg, at a cost of approximately R10 million, to support government's already overburdened resources in the fight against COVID-19. Working with the North West Provincial Department of Health and the Bojanala District Health Department, RBPlat converted its unused Maseve Mine, South Shaft Change House in the North West Province, into a 200-bed Field Hospital to provide initial COVID-19 medical treatment to its employees and communities.
Click here to read the press release
Social relief & community support
- Purchase of water tanks and supply of water to public facilities and communities.
- Provision of food parcels to vulnerable families in local and host communities.
- Provision of blankets and mattresses for homeless shelters.
- Provision of access to tap stations, underutilised water tanks, mine water and tankers to refill water at various locations, and
- Provision of facilities that could be used for self-isolation by mine workers and other community members who test positive for the virus.
- Conversion of hostels in the Free State, West Rand and Rustenburg into quarantine facilities.
- Support to local, small businesses by focusing spend on local suppliers for COVID related PPE, fund to stimulate local economic growth in local communities.
- Assistance to the provincial Departments of Education with the sanitising of schools and provision of PPE such as cloth masks for learners and educators, catch-up programmes in North West, Free State, Gauteng and Eastern Cape.
- Provision of e-learning educational support tools for matric learners and educators.
Direct Financial Aid
- Contributions to the Solidarity Fund through Board and Executive salary sacrifices and additional corporate donations.
- Donations to other non-governmental organisations (NGOs), matching of employee donations, corporate donations to the SA Future Trust Fund.
Whereas it is difficult to quantify assistance to communities and public authorities for the whole PGM industry, it should be noted that the financial assistance is over and above the current Social Labour Plan (SLP) commitments.
Further to the above, individual companies have installed rigorous procedures, workplace controls and screenings at their operations to prevent a situation where a person with mild-COVID 19 symptoms comes to work, e.g. by establishing and embedding a fever/upper respiratory infection monitoring programme.
Example: Anglo American's "WeCare" programm
Anglo American has implemented an extensive health awareness and support programme called "WeCare", specifically to protect the health and wellbeing of the more than 90,000 employees and full-time contractors around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employees learn how to better protect themselves and others from catching the virus, how to monitor their health to pick-up early symptoms, and to manage their health if they test positive for COVID-19. A key component of the programme is to treat mines and host communities, which are also often home to much of the workforce, as an ecosystem where both must be healthy to prosper.
Members based or operating in Europe have had different exposure to the COVID-19 pandemic, depending on the country they are operating in and the development of COVID-19 in specific countries. However, being part of the PGM supply chain means that the severe situation in mining countries such as South Africa also have an impact on fabricators.
The following measures are examples of what fabricators have done to tackle the COVID-19 challenge:
- Enabling working from home arrangements wherever possible.
- Ensuring the highest standards of safety in all working practices.
- Enhancing health and wellbeing support for all employees.
- Putting self-isolation procedures in place for employees who are displaying symptoms or have been in contact with a confirmed infected individual.
- Pledged to make no member of staff redundant as a direct result of the impact of COVID-19.
- Started manufacturing goggles and visors across a number of sites which are being offered to community medical staff and care organisations
- Donated PPE equipment to medical and care organisations.
- Donation through Executives' salaries sacrifices to education funds.
- Pledged to match all donations made by our employees to fund local projects supporting communities though COVID-19
- Donation of space on a company site for the assembly of ventilators on behalf of Ventilator Challenge UK, a non-profit organisation led by two consortiums making two types of ventilators.
Example: Johnson Matthey donating space to DHL to support manufacture of ventilators
Johnson Matthey in Royston (UK) has donated space at one of its sites in order to help DHL to assemble ventilators on behalf of Ventilator Challenge UK. This is a not for profit organisation that is led by two different consortiums making two types of ventilators.
DHL was asked to create, construct, and manage logistics operations for both consortiums who have been charged with manufacturing 15,000 ventilators in 12 weeks. This is a marked increase on the 4,000 ventilators typically manufactured in the UK each year. As it became clear that capacity would be constrained if both supply chains continued to operate from one facility, DHL approached Johnson Matthey to support the consortium and logistics provision through its site in Bedford.
JM's Bedford site is now being used as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK Supply Chain. Six trailers worth of product arrives at the site each day - this will enable the DHL teams to support the assembly of approximately 600 ventilators every day.
Further links to COVID-19 information provided by IPA Members:
Anglo American Platinum Limited - https://www.angloamerican.com/sustainability/covid-19-update
Royal Bafokeng Platinum - https://www.bafokengplatinum.co.za/covid-19.php
BASF Corporation - https://www.basf.com/us/en/products/General-Business-Topics/dispersions/covid-19.html
Impala Platinum Ltd. - http://www.implats.co.za/covid-19.php
Johnson Matthey PLC - https://matthey.com/en/news/2020/covid-19
JSC MMC Norilsk Nickel - https://www.nornickel.com/sustainability/covid-19/
Sibanye-Stillwater - https://www.sibanyestillwater.com/news-investors/news/responding-to-covid-19/
Umicore - https://www.umicore.com/en/media/press/umicores-response-to-covid-19-/