JOHANNESBURG, July 9 (Reuters) - Foreign mineworkers have begun returning to South African mines, though at a slower rate than hoped, as the industry rebuilds output after the easing of the coronavirus lockdown, the Minerals Council said on Thursday.
Mines in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer of platinum and chrome and a major gold and diamond producer, have been raising output after the virus restrictions, which caused some migrant mineworkers return to their home countries.
The Minerals Council said 698 foreign mineworkers had returned on Tuesday, lower than the 1,150 workers they had planned to bring back.
The return of the migrant workers has been delayed due to technical challenges at border posts and limitations on police staffing, with officers required to escort returning workers from the borders to quarantine facilities.
The 10-day plan to return the foreign workers, who make up about 10% of South Africa’s mining workforce, will now take double the about of time, said Niks Lesufi, senior executive for safety and health at the Minerals Council.
The industry had so far identified 12,500 foreign mineworkers from neighbouring country’s such as Mozambique, Lesotho and e-Swatini who are needed to return to South Africa.
The industry, which has around 75% of its workforce back following the lockdown, has recorded 28 deaths and 3,519 confirmed COVID-19 cases so far.
South Africa has recorded 224,664 cases of COVID-19 and 3,602 deaths, according to the latest health ministry update on Wednesday. (Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; editing by David Evans)