The Government of South Africa has agreed to allow the mining sector to operate at up to 50% of its production capacity during the nationwide lockdown.

The government amended the Disaster Management Act regulations to allow mining companies to ramp up operations to half of their capacities.

However, the government also advised the sector to implement all preventive measures and ensure safety of the workers.

Earlier, the government ordered most of the underground mines to be put on care and maintenance as the country entered a period of nationwide lockdown to limit the spread of Covid-19.

Coal mines, which are essential for power generation, were excluded from the order.

The lockdown, which began on 27 March, has now been extended to the end of this month.

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By GlobalData

In a news conference, South African Mines Minister Gwede Mantashe told that the decision was taken to avoid instability in some deep-level mines due to long-term closures.

Mantashe was quoted by Reuters as saying: “In the amendment we are identifying a risk, particularly in deep mining, (that) if they are left alone for a long time the stability of the ground gets tampered with.”

The amendments were also welcomed by the industry body Minerals Council South Africa.

Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter said: “It is Minerals Council’s view that government has adopted a pragmatic and practical approach to fighting the pandemic and enabling the economy to survive the crisis.”

As of 17 April, more than 2,600 people in South Africa are infected by Covid-19. The death toll stands at 48.