May 12, 2020 / 12:20 PM / 18 days ago

South Africa publishes proposed mine safety rules for COVID-19

JOHANNESBURG, May 12 (Reuters) - South Africa published new proposed safety guidelines on Tuesday for mines operating during the coronavirus pandemic, which would require that mineworkers be screened, tested, kept further apart and provided with protective gear.

South Africa, the world’s largest producer of platinum and chrome ore and a major miner of gold, diamonds and coal, is gradually restarting the operations of its biggest export industry, shut down in a nationwide lockdown.

In April, the authorities relaxed regulations to allow mines to operate at 50% capacity. But labour unions have since won a court case against the government, forcing it to impose stricter safety guidelines.

The new mandatory regulations proposed by the Mines Ministry would require companies to keep workers further apart, supply them with protective equipment, disinfect their transportation and accommodation, screen and test them for illness, identify those with pre-existing conditions and provide flu vaccinations.

The industry, which employs about 500,000 people, has already implemented some safety measures including setting up shared quarantine facilities for workers that test positive for the virus.

The guidelines will be open for public comment until May 14 before they enter force. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg Editing by Peter Graff)

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