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Sibanye, Gold Fields employees test positive for Covid-19 - Mining Weekly

Thursday, 28 May 2020

JSE- and NYSE-listed gold and platinum group metals (PGMs) miner Sibanye-Stillwater has confirmed that 51 employees from the Thembelani shaft, at its Rustenburg PGM operations, have tested positive for Covid-19.

This follows as two employees from the shaft tested positive for the virus last week, leading to subsequent contact tracing identifying a number of associated employees who have since been tested and quarantined.

In total, out of 120 results received, 51 employees have tested positive for the virus.

According to Sibanye, which is headed by CEO Neal Froneman, all of the contacts traced were asymptomatic at the time of conducting the tests. All those who have tested positive have been counselled and moved from quarantine to isolation in line with national health protocols, with on-site facilities available for those who may need them.

The work areas to which these cases were traced have since been closed and the related crew members, who tested positive, have been quarantined.

The other contacts who did not rest positive will also remain in quarantine for 14 days as a precaution in line with the company's guidelines and protocols.

To date, the group's protocols at its South African operations have resulted in the positive identification of 65 positive Covid-19 cases.

Apart from the infections at Thembelani, these cases have been isolated incidents that are widely spread across the operations, both in the underground environment and on surface, with employees resident in various regional communities.

The departments of Health and Mineral Resources and Energy, as well as the regional health authorities, labour unions and community organisations, have been informed and engagements continue, Sibanye said on May 28.


Meanwhile, fellow gold miner Gold Fields also reported on May 28 that the impact of Covid-19 on its gold production has been limited, with the miner having revised its guidance last month.

Attributable equivalent gold production for this year for the group is expected to be between 2.2-million and 2.25-million ounces, while cost guidance remains unchanged from that published in February.

All-in sustaining costs (AISC) are expected to be between $920/oz and $940/oz and all-in costs (AIC) are expected to be between $1 035/oz and $1 055/oz.

However, Gold Fields warned that considering that the Covid-19 situation “is fluid”, should there be further lockdowns and restrictions in the countries in which the miner has a presence, it may lead to production disruptions in future.

No lockdowns have been enforced in Western Australia other than international, inter-state and intra-state travel restrictions, some of which are currently being lifted. Gold Fields' fly-in, fly-out employees continue to travel to and from its mines, though shift rosters have been changed to two weeks on/two weeks off to provide additional protection. Production has not been impacted to date.

The miner's South Deep mine, in South Africa, is gearing up for a safe return to 100% of its manpower capacity on June 1. The mine was in care and maintenance for three weeks up to April 18 and has since ramped up to operate at 50% of capacity.

All employees have been on full base pay during this period, and the mine has had one returning employee test positive for Covid-19.

South Deep has begun diagnostic polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing and, where appropriate, quarantining of high-risk and returning employees off-site before allowing them access to the mining area. The miner plans to test all employees on this basis over the next six weeks, starting with higher-risk employees.

Peru, meanwhile, imposed a 15-day curfew on March 16, which has been extended a number of times and remains in place until end-June. Production at Gold Fields' Cerro Corona mine has not been materially impacted as the workforce stays in a self-contained camp on-site.

While the mine had to reduce operations in mid-April, it has since ramped up to close to normal operating levels.

Here, three employees and 14 contractors have tested positive for Covid-19 to date.

All employees and contractors at the mine have since been tested and the camp is now virus-free. The mine has further also introduced stringent control measures including setting-up working groups of between three and 13 people, which are not in contact with other employees so that if a positive case eventuates, contact tracing is facilitated.

In Chile, the number of employees at the Salares Norte project has been reduced from 250 to around 150 following the completion of the first phase of exploration in the Horizonte district.

Development of the camp and other early work activities have continued in line with schedule and in preparation for the ramp-up to construction in the fourth quarter of this year.

Gold Fields' Tarkwa mine, in Ghana, has recorded 70 positive Covid-19 cases to date, of which over 90% are contractors. The majority of these cases were identified after contact tracing of the first two cases at the mine.

All those who have tested positive have been isolated and are receiving medical treatment.

So far, Tarkwa has tested 1 600 employees and contractors of its total 4 770 workforce. The miner's Asanko and Damang mines have reported one case each, and production at the mines in the country has not been impacted.

Further, Gold Fields confirmed that it is in a strong financial position with significantly reduced debt at the end of March, with a net debt to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation ratio of below 1x.

Gold Fields has about $800-million in cash and in excess of $1.5-billion of committed, unused debt facilities. 

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