The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have encouraged intercountry trade organisation the Competence Centre for Mineral Resources (CCMR) to increase the scope of its Health & Safety on South African Mines project.
“It’s important to remember that if you are running a project over three years, you have to adjust it to market conditions over that period. While the original focus was largely on Vision Zero – having zero accidents in the mining industry – the scope has now increased to focus on physical and mental health aspects associated with the Covid-19 pandemic,” states CCMR head René Zarske.
The CCMR is the central point of contact for German and South African companies in the local mining industry. It is commissioned by government agency the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, and aims to promote investment in Southern Africa, as well as transfer skills and technology.
The CCMR Mine Health & Safety project has been carried out in partnership with local mining institutions the Mining Industry Association of Southern Africa (Miasa) and Minerals Council South Africa since 2018.
Since the project’s inception, a few milestones have been achieved, including the publication of a Best Practice Report in 2018 to raise awareness on health and safety in the mining environment.
Zarske adds that local cooperation partners, such as Miasa and Minerals Council South Africa, have been crucial in this project.
He explains that, when the CCMR Mine Health & Safety project began, the intention was to engage with, listen to and support local institutions that have a presence in and knowledge of the local market.
Minerals Council South Africa provided the information and context for many of the mining operations in South Africa and assisted in engaging with certain mining operations.
The role of Miasa in the project is to take information gained from the project, such as the Best Practices Report, and share it with other mining industries in the Southern Africa region.
“If one is looking into the local market in African countries, you’ll find that many institutions already have projects in place. Thus, it’s easier to help those institutions reach their targets in their projects, as opposed to reinventing the wheel with new projects. We believe in cooperation and partnerships,” explains Zarske.
The second year of the project involved sharing information gained from the report with other mining industries in the Southern Africa region, as six seminars and workshops were facilitated in South Africa, Botswana, Angola and Lesotho.
While the project intends to do six more workshops this year, the effect of Covid-19 and its impact on travel restrictions have made this difficult.
Zarske highlights that while travel restrictions and other supply chain challenges have presented challenges in terms of holding workshops and similar initiatives, the pandemic has encouraged focusing on health aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Consequently, the project has started to focus on the psychological effects of Covid-19 on mineworkers and is reporting its findings to Minerals Council South Africa.
The project is conducting the screening of 300 to 500 people at a mining operation to evaluate their mental wellbeing and health, in accordance with spiritual leaders and psychologists in South Africa.
While the initiative does intend to conduct screening in neighbouring countries, travel restrictions has limited this to South Africa for now.
Zarske confirms that, in addition to increasing the scope of the CCMR Mine Health & Safety project, owing to Covid-19, a similar follow-up project will be initiated in South Africa once the current project ends.
“We are happy with our local cooperation partners and we can see that we have an impact in the mining industry. That’s why we look forward to another project for another three years in health and safety,” he enthuses.