Anglo American defends decision to work during lockdown amid criticism

Anglo American has stood by its decision to continue operations at its Sishen mine in the Northern Cape during the lockdown.
Anglo American has stood by its decision to continue operations at its Sishen mine in the Northern Cape during the lockdown.

Anglo American has defended its decision to continue operations at its Kumba Iron Ore Sishen mine in the Northern Cape during the national lockdown.

This after the company was criticised by the EFF for putting its workers at risk of contracting Covid-19.

Company spokesperson Sinah Phochana said Anglo American was not in contravention of any lockdown regulations, having been granted exemption by minister Gwede Mantashe.

Moreover, she said, the company would be operating with only half its staff complement and had put in place the necessary safety and health measures to protect its employees.

The company's contribution to the province's economy should not be understated, she said.

According to Phochana, the company cared for its employees — to the extent that those who are not required to return to work will be paid their full salaries while at home. Those who have been asked to return to work will get extra financial benefits.

“Our priority is the safety, health and wellbeing of our employees, contractors and host communities,” she said.

“We are deeply aware of how much our communities depend on us and that we have an obligation to consider them in everything we do.

“The department of mineral resources & energy and energy granted us the exemption, allowing us to continue mining with a reduced workforce, because Kumba places the safety and health of our employees first and follows best-practice health and sanitation protocols.”

Phochana added that the mine was not only engaged in mining but also played a part in the provision of water in communities around the province.

She emphasised that Anglo American was the single biggest private sector employer in the province and that continuing operations was for everyone's benefit.

“Our mine staff are working with the government to deliver vital public services such as water and health support to our municipalities and communities,” she said.

“While our operations deliver vital tax revenue for government, because we are by far the largest private employer in the Northern Cape province and supporter of local business, the towns depend to a very large degree on our operations continuing — even in reduced form.

“Kumba is a catalyst for economic development in the Northern Cape and contributes significantly to the fiscus, including R10bn in taxes and royalties paid last year.”

Phochana said there were several measures in place to safeguard the health of their staff and all in their host communities, which include:

  • collaborating with the Gamagara and Tsantsabane local municipalities to deliver drinking water to informal settlements;
  • providing health services to the community through mobile clinics, the Postmasburg hospital and a primary health care centre;
  • emergency assistance services to host communities in the John Taolo Gaetsewe district and Tsantsabane local municipalities;
  • establishing a joint operations centre in Kolomela working with the local municipality, local businesses, police and soldiers during the Covid-19 lockdown to respond to community needs;
  • working with the health department to identify quarantine sites in the community;
  • exploring increasing capacity at Postmasburg hospital through the provision of marquee tents with additional beds and medical equipment;
  • providing thermometers, aprons, hand soap and sanitisers to health care workers at Postmasburg hospital;
  • providing essential service workers at Tsantsabane and Gamagara local municipalities with personal protective equipment;
  • donating blankets to the department of social development to support homeless residents in Tsantsabane during the lockdown; and
  • spreading awareness and disseminating educational material to host communities.