/ 23 September 2021

Mining industry vaccinates over 200 000 workers, mandatory vaccination not on the cards for now

Safrica Health Virus Mining
A mine employee measures the temperature of a mineworker, enroute to his evening shift at the Sibanye-Stillwater platinum mine, before letting him board a company bus at the Wonderkop taxi rank in Marikana, near Rustenburg. (Photo by Michele Spatari/AFP)

Making Covid-19 vaccination mandatory for the mining industry workforce might not be necessary after the immunisation roll-out in the sector reached a milestone this week.

More than 203 000 mining employees and contractors have been fully or partially vaccinated as of Wednesday at 52 workplace vaccination sites and temporary facilities, Minerals Council South Africa chief executive Roger Baxter told a media briefing on Thursday.

He said the industry’s priority was to reach a target of getting 80% of its workforce vaccinated by November, and indications from the smooth roll-out were that the target was achievable through a partnership with provincial health departments, private companies and mining companies that have fewer than 4 000 employees.

“Our objective is to get industry level immunity by the end of November. We are not focused on mandatory vaccination currently but it could be considered in due course,” said Baxter.  “Lots of companies have achieved 80% with at least one jab given to workers so let’s allow that process to flow.”

He said getting at least 49% of the workforce vaccinated had been possible because labour unions had advocated for this among their members and supported company-based roll-out programmes.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said encouraging workers to get vaccinated was a no-brainer given the working environment for the sector.

“We told our members that they must go and vaccinate because they work in a crowded environment underground and even when they go underground, so it was important for the NUM to encourage members to vaccinate and we are happy that a lot of members did as requested,” said NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu.

Mammburu told The Mail and Guardian that although NUM’s leadership was working with mining companies to promote immunisation against Covid-19, it would not support making this mandatory.

“We don’t support compulsory vaccination as the NUM. Our members are vaccinating without being forced so we don’t think there’s a need to force our members to do the compulsory vaccination. For us it would be unacceptable, unconstitutional so our members are willingly getting vaccinated,” he said.