JOHANNESBURG – THE MINERALS Council South Africa has projected that the mining industry would likely spend R300 million to vaccinate three million people against the Covid-19 virus as the first doses of the vaccines arrived in the country.

Council president Mxolisi Mgojo told journalists yesterday ahead of the Mining Indaba that the industry would use its existing infrastructure and capacity to collaborate with the government and labour in rolling out the vaccination programme.

Mgojo said that the industry could vaccinate between 60 000 and 80 000 people to reach the 3 million mark within two months.

“That is not only our workforce of 450 000 people,” Mgojo said. “For every employee we vaccinate, we would envisage vaccinating at least five more people, be they employee family members or members of the community.” Mgojo said the process would comprise the safe storage of vaccines, determining eligibility based on medical priorities and administrative record keeping such as registering who had received a vaccine.

He said it would also ensure, where necessary, that a second vaccination was done. “In addition massive education campaigns are required. Our estimate is that the industry will spend around R300m to vaccinate R3 million people,” Mgojo said.

The first 1 million doses of vaccines from the Serum Institute of India arrived in the country yesterday, and 20 million of the Pfizer Covid vaccine had been secured to ensure that 42 million shots were available, enough to inoculate 70 percent of the population.

Last week precious metals giant Sibanye-Stillwater said it would contribute R200 million to the government’s Covid-19 vaccination procurement programme. The council reported that 275 mining employees had succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic since the outbreak in March last year.

The council said 58 mine employees had died in work related accidents at the end of December, compared to 49 at the same time in 2019, representing an overall 18 percent regression in the number of fatalities year-on-year.

“The analysis of the fatality trends indicates that fall of ground, transportation and general classified incidents have contributed the most to the overall fatalities in recent years,” said the council.

Council chief executive, Roger Baxter said there was an agreement between the government and business that vaccines were a national priority and ultimately the government had the responsibility for the majority of the funding.

“The medical aids have also come to the party, indicating they are going to fund their 7.1 million members and any gaps that may be in the funding side can be funded by business as a whole. We believe that the mining sector has a critical role to play, not just topping up in the funding gap if there is a funding gap, the members will come to the party if need be,” Baxter said.

Source: | By Dineo Faku