Anglo American’s Coal SA subsidiary recently unveiled a state-of-the-art COVID-19 testing laboratory at its Highveld Hospital in eMalahleni, which will allow the hospital to test employees, contractors and the broader community who show signs of the virus.
The laboratory, which was set up within a week, is fully equipped with a polymerise chain reaction (PCR) testing machine. The machine can currently perform 300 tests a day, but this can be doubled if necessary through the addition of a second lab technician. Coal SA has also appointed four clinical associates, and provided vehicles for them to be able to conduct home-based responses.
Opening the laboratory alongside senior leaders from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Coal SA executives, Coal SA chief executive July Ndlovu said the new laboratory was a key element of the company’s efforts wide-ranging employee and community initiative to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
Ndlovu gave the delegation a tour of the Highveld Hospital, which has been dedicated to treating potential COVID-19 patients from Anglo Coal SA operations and the communities surrounding the mines by installing 85 additional beds, increasing the capacity to 107, for the use of isolation beds and recommissioning the tuberculosis ward to treat COVID-19 patients in isolation.
Ndlovu said ‘a range of stringent measures’ had been put in place at Coal SA’s mines, including increased hygiene measures, clear social distancing markings to ensure social distancing both in the workplace and while travelling to and from work, the provision of personal protective equipment, and screening and testing procedures.
“We made a decision to get the hospital ready for any eventuality early on when the COVID-19 hit our region. I am proud of the work that the team has done to get us to where we are today. This a clear demonstration that safety is a value and a priority for us,” said Ndlovu.
“Our approach is based on stopping the spread of COVID-19 by limiting the movement of employees at sites operating with a reduced workforce and production; supporting the sustainability of our host communities, who depend on us for a variety of essential services and need our support now more than ever; and ensuring the security of people’s livelihoods and their families.”
Carina Venter, Coal SA Head of Safety and Health briefed the union leadership on Coal SA’s employee and community initiatives in Mpumalanga, which form part of Anglo American’s wide-ranging Community Response Plan (CRP) to ensure the health and wellbeing of the employees. The plan was announced earlier this month as part of a multi-pronged strategy to sustain the company’s employees, host communities and supply chain through the challenges of the pandemic.
NUM’s National Health and Safety Chairperson, Duncan Luvuno, said: “As the NUM, we have been visiting mines to make sure that employers are doing everything in their power to ensure that they have put measures in place to contain the spread of the virus. We are encouraged by Anglo Coal SA’s initiatives, and to see that they have taken this a step further by deploying the Highveld Hospital to help fight the pandemic.”
Coal SA’s community initiatives include food package distribution to child-headed households, households of people living with disabilities and elderly and shelters in eMalahleni, Steve Tshwete and Govan Mbeki Municipalities; providing water to its surrounding communities; and working with the Department of Education to provide access to learning resources.
The company also provides around 12% of eMalahleni’s potable water needs through its eMalahleni Water Reclamation Plant, which purifies waste mine water by reverse osmosis to supply 16 million litres a day into the municipal reticulation system. To date, the plant has treated in excess of 70 billion litres of water, with 50 billion sent to the municipality and the rest reused within Anglo Coal operations.
“Our operations play a vital role in many of our host communities, including the development and maintenance of essential infrastructure and services such as roads, clean water and energy. Now, they need our support more than ever. We are going beyond the ‘business as usual’ services to make health infrastructure available to support the national effort, and provide access to basic provisioning such as food and water during this crisis,” said Ndlovu.