The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) says it is ready to appear in the Labour Court on April 29 to defend its urgent application requesting that the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) set minimum standards for health and safety of mineworkers during the scourge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

While there is a high level of agreement between AMCU and the employers’ organisation, the Minerals Council South Africa, regarding the setting of national minimum standards, the DMRE and Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) has opposed AMCU’s application.

The court challenge involves AMCU arguing for an order to compel Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe to issue binding regulations to protect mineworkers from Covid-19.

This is in light of the mining industry being allowed to ramp up to 50% of production during Phase 5 of the national lockdown, with more workers set to return after May 1 when Level 4 commences.

While AMCU has consistently declared its support for the mines ramping up production, the organisation notes that this can only take place once national minimum standards are put in place to ensure the health and safety of workers during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Before approaching court, AMCU wrote numerous letters to the DMRE, requesting Mantashe to set health and safety standards for mineworkers, “who are uniquely vulnerable to Covid-19”, according to AMCU. This vulnerability, the union states, includes the peculiar risks posed by highly congested working areas with low levels of natural ventilation, coupled with the high levels of predisposition caused by silicosis and tuberculosis.

AMCU fears this will lead to widespread infection among mineworkers, as well as the vulnerable communities that host them.

However, AMCU states that Mantashe has “ignored all AMCU’s pleas and proposals thus far”, and therefore the union was “forced to approach the court”.

Source: Mining Weekly