South Africa to halt mining for 21 days in face of COVID-19 pandemic

March 24, 2020

As the world continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic South Africa has announced that it take the unprecedented step of closing its mines for 21 days as part of a nationwide lockdown announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa in a race to contain the coronavirus.

South Africa’s economy was largely built on gold mining and the nation still supplies 75 percent of the world’s platinum and 38 percent of its palladium while continuing to produce gold, manganese, chrome and iron ore. Closing the mines is a reminder of the severity of the pandemic.

“This would be unprecedented in the history of mining in South Africa,” said Roger Baxter, the chief executive officer of the Minerals Council South Africa, the main industry group. “There were certain times when components of the industry were closed, for example during the second world war, but this is unprecedented.”

South Africa’s army will help the police to enforce the lockdown that will start midnight Thursday, Ramaphosa said in a televised address. Grocers, pharmacies, banks and filling stations will be allowed to remain open, while the Johannesburg Stock Exchange and other essential services can continue operating, Bloomberg reported.

Palladium and platinum prices extended gains amid a broader rise in the precious metals basket.

“Companies whose operations require continuous processes such as furnaces, underground mine operations will be required to make arrangements for care and maintenance to avoid damage to their continuous operations,” Ramaphosa said.

Sibanye Stillwater Ltd., the world’s top platinum producer, is weighing the president’s directive, said spokesman James Wellsted. Spokespeople for Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., and Anglo American Platinum Ltd., couldn’t immediately comment.

 

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