It has somewhat ceased to remain news that South Africa had one of the world’s most severe coronavirus-curbing lockdowns. The measure had its ripple effects, and one of the evidences is the current state of the nation’s mining industry.
In the month of April (2020), South African mining reported a whopping 47 percent decrease in total production, according to new figures released by Statistics South Africa.
Worst Since 1981
South Africa is the world’s largest producer of platinum and chrome, while being a leading producer of gold and diamonds. As Covid-19’s rampage began in the country, mines were forced to shut down temporarily.
The total decline in April’s production was preceded by an 18 percent contraction in March. Platinum group metals (PGMs) output fell by 62.0 percent in April, while gold production was 59.6 percent lower.
According the Minerals Council’s estimates, mining production could fall by between 8 and 10 percent this year as a result of the pandemic.
AngloGold Ashanti—the third largest gold producer in the world, and the largest in Africa—temporarily closed it mine in Mponeng, South Africa, after 164 of its workers test positive for Covid-19. All these factors commune to contribute to the worst loss of the country’s mining sector since 1981.
Since May 1st (2020), open cast mines have been allowed to work at 100 percent capacity. But in deep level mines—where social distancing have become rocket science—are under restriction to operate at just 50 percent. Nevertheless, the South African government is looking to allow them go full capacity as from June 1st (2020).
In the nation’s mining industry, 821 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed so far, according to figures from Minerals Council. This has raised concerns amongst trade unions who worry about the risk associated with workers returning to mining environments where keeping social distance is difficult.
Despite the fact that manufacturing has employed more people than mining for decades— and contributes a greater chunk of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP)— South African mining forms the core of its economy. Mining-centered holding firms als invest in other economies activities and gold remains the nation’s most important mineral.