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South Africa: Implats  asks some workers to return as it seeks leave to restart limited operations

Some workers at Impala Platinum have been called to return to work on Tuesday as the mining house seeks leave to restart some of its operations from Friday.
The company announced in March that it intended applying to continue with operations outside of the essential care and maintenance allowed during lockdown. The group, which at the time said it wanted permission to conduct “limited smelting operations”, confirmed to Fin24 on Sunday that it has sent SMSes to some of its employees last week asking them to return to work.
“This was done in consultation with our stakeholders and in line with all the statutory measures introduced by the government,” said the group’s head of investor relations and corporate communication, Alice Lourens.
Lourens said Implats continued to pay all its employees – those currently doing essential maintenance work and those at home – during the 21-day lockdown which was due to end on April 16, before President Ramaphosa announced its extension to the end of the month.
She said that some of the company’s other operations that aren’t part of essential care and maintenance – such as smelters and refineries – cannot be completely switched off. These have continued to process available inventories, at reduced capacity, during the lockdown. But Implats said this could not be sustained past the initial 21-day lockdown period.
“We are awaiting the announcement of these provisions [in the new lockdown regulations] and will shape our plans to restart the business accordingly in full support of the measure announced by the government to fight the spread of the virus.  This may or may not include provisions to allow some mining activity to resume during this period,” said Lourens in a written response.
She said while Implats wants to protect the livelihoods of its employees, it also understands that this is not a time for rushed short-term decisions or getting people back to work as soon as possible.
“Our principle consideration is not a return to business as usual, but rather how best to protect the lives and livelihoods of our people given the challenges of Covid-19,” said Lourens.
“However, we also have to do all we can to sustain the financial viability of our business and the economy of the countries where we operate. Without a viable business and economy, we will simply not have jobs to return to and as a consequence no means to support our families.”
She said the company has made many alterations to increase hygiene, screening and provision of healthcare in its mines.

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