S.Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti suspends Mponeng mine ops after virus detected

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JOHANNESBURG, May 25, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – South Africa’s AngloGold Ashanti said
Sunday it had suspended operations at its Mponeng mine after at least 164
employees tested positive for coronavirus.

AngloGold Ashanti said it had tested 650 workers at the gold mining site in
Merafong, Gauteng province, after a first case was detected last week.

“This process has indicated 164 positive cases with only a handful of tests
left to process,” the company said in a statement, adding that the “vast
majority” of cases were asymptomatic.

Operations at Mponeng mine have been “temporarily halted” to complete
contact tracing and “sanitize the workplace”.

The world’s deepest gold mine resumed operations at 50 percent late last
month after it was shuttered by a nationwide anti-coronavirus lockdown on
March 27.

Mining is a critical element in South Africa’s already struggling economy,
contributing eight percent to overall gross domestic product and raking in 45
percent of foreign exchange earnings.

Mines are also one of the largest employers, with nearly half a million
workers.

Limited mining activities were allowed to resume about a month ago under
“strict health conditions”.

But workers and unions expressed concern about returning to work in
underground tunnels that could easily become breeding grounds for the novel
virus.

A labour union won a court case earlier this month forcing the government
to impose strict protective measures for miners.

Employers have since rolled out extra health controls, including regular
screening and testing, social distancing and cleaning.

Miners with underlying chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and AIDS
are not allowed back to work until the virus has abated.

Before AngloGold Ashanti’s announcement, there were just 85 confirmed
coronavirus cases in the whole of South Africa’s mining industry, including
one death.

Another mine owned by Impala Platinum was temporarily shut earlier this
month after 19 of its employees tested positive.

South Africa has the highest number of coronavirus cases on the continent,
with 21,343 infections detected so far and 407 fatalities.