SA mines left waiting on migrant labour return as Minerals Council reports slow progress

THE Minerals Council said it had so far drawn a blank in terms of getting a substantial number of foreign mineworkers back to South African mining premises.

“There was a meeting yesterday with government authorities in Mozambique and we are hoping there would be a meeting today,” said the council’s senior executive of public affairs and transformation, Tebello Chabana. “But none of foreign mineworkers are back so this is a work in progress.”

The Minerals Council said on June 25 that the return to work of some 9,500 foreign mineworkers was being held up by a shortage of immigration staff at the country’s borders as well as delays in getting approval from Natjoints, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure.

Natjoints co-ordinates all security and law enforcement operations throughout South Africa and includes the South African Police Services; the South African National Defence Force and the Department of Health among other government departments and organisations.

According to Minerals Council senior executive for safety and health, Nikisi Lesufi, the mines completed all the necessary processes required by Natjoints for the return of the foreign mineworkers, but there is a continuing bottleneck at the country’s border posts which were operating on skeleton staffs.

Harmony Gold told Miningmx on June 24 that the company might not restore full mining at its South African operations until August as the return of migrant workers to the country was taking longer than anticipated.

“We have 7,000 migrant workers that have to return. We think we have got all the approvals in place, but that (full return of workers) won’t be until the middle of July,” said Peter Steenkamp, CEO of Harmony Gold in an interview.

“We are only getting about 300 people per day through the border post. We are confident in our gold production numbers but the mines will not be synchronised,” he said. Harmony  forecast adjusted full year production guidance of 1.4 million ounces for its 2020 financial year which ends on June 30.

Migrant gold mine workers who went home during South Africa’s 21-day lockdown in March have been prevented from returning as borders have been closed in the wake of the COVID-19 related lockdowns.