THE Covid-19 pandemic had a devastating operational impact on the Namibian mining industry particularly reduced production due to logistical changes, supply disruptions and suppressed global demand for mineral commodities.
In addition to trade restriction on non-essential items, sourcing specialised skills was a challenge due to border restrictions, shortage of staff and increased Covid-19 cases.
According to a presentation at the Chamber of Mines 2021 virtual Mining Conference, as at 27 August, there were 3 179 confirmed cases for Chamber of Mines members, although 3113 recovered leaving 28 active cases. A total of 38 deaths due to the virus were reported.
The global economic decline caused by the pandemic had a ripple effect on the local economy because of stringent travel restrictions, restrictions on movement of people in non-essential services resulted in all non-essential commercial services being suspended.
However, the pandemic created opportunities for empowering local businesses as they were engaged to provide some of the specialised skills and aided skills transfer to locals.
The first lockdown resulted in minimal production as companies followed Government directives to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The pre-requisite was for mining companies to enforce and implement the prescribed covid-19 measures in order to safe guard their employees. Most mining sites pro-actively implemented measures including the provision of hand sanitisers, maintaining social distancing across all work environments including when using company transport and during meetings.
They halved the number of employees embarking on a bus, enforced the wearing of masks on all sites, banned travel to hot spots banned and minimal use of outside services.
“Support staff worked from home and splitting of employees to report to office at different times, was implemented,” the paper says.
Companies ensured that service providers implemented required measures and adhered to rules on site. “Tracking and tracing of contacts was done as this allowed early identification, isolation and testing of possible contacts. Companies also discourage unnecessary movement between various plant units.”
Continuous screening was done and employees were encouraged to stay at home if they showed flu-like symptoms and continuous communication was done to keep employees informed of the requirements as well as raising awareness for vaccination to achieve herd immunity.