June 4, 2020 / 2:10 PM / a month ago

South African miners seek return of foreign mineworkers

JOHANNESBURG, June 4 (Reuters) - South Africa’s mining industry is in talks with the government about allowing foreign miners to return to work, the Minerals Council said on Thursday, as output ramps up after the easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

Mines in South Africa, the world’s biggest producer of platinum and chrome and a major gold and diamond producer, have been allowed to run at full capacity since June 1 after a temporary halt since March when a nationwide lockdown began.

The industry body, the Minerals Council, said it had been requested by members to ask the Health Department to allow the return of foreign mineworkers, who make up about 10% of South Africa’s mining workforce.

The industry had so far requested the return of about 9,500 workers, mostly from Mozambique and Lesotho, under strict conditions that included screening them before they leave their home countries and a 14-day quarantine in South Africa, the council said.

“People who fail the screening tests will not be allowed to come” to South Africa, said the council’s senior executive for environment, health and legacies, Nikisi Lesufi.

Final approvals from several government departments were still needed before the foreigners could return, the council said.

South Africa has over 37,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 527 cases in the mining industry.

The health ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Edmund Blair

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