The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has launched an investigation into allegations of some mining houses not adhering to the COVID-19 National State of Disaster regulations.
This comes after the department received complaints from employees of the said mining houses, said Minister Gwede Mantashe during a ministerial press briefing on Friday.
"Our inspectors have been tasked to ensure compliance during this period and will intensify our visits - both scheduled and unannounced - to those mines still operating," he said.
The Minister said the department was not doing this to be punitive but to safeguard the lives of employees, suppliers, contractors and all those they will come into contact with during this period.
"While we understand the negative impact that the virus will have on the mining and energy sectors, we must appreciate that this is not the time to put profits at the expense of the health and safety of the people," he said.
Three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in mines
The Minister said there are currently three confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the mining and energy sectors - one each in Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.
"We encourage employers and unions in these industries to continue engaging on issues directly affecting employees and proactively manage them. This should be done in the interests of ensuring employee health and safety, as well as ensuring that companies are able to meet their obligations during this time.
"We will be having follow-up meetings with employers and unions next week, in order to proactively manage this space.
"I want to thank the mining and energy sectors for heeding the call by Government to assist in managing the spread of the Coronavirus. We welcome the offers of support from the sectors, including medical supplies, equipment, as well as availing health and other facilities."
To date, about 770 beds have been made available for quarantine and self-isolation by a number of mining companies.
"We commend these efforts, and encourage all companies to provide support to this cause in whatever way they can.
"Our ongoing collaboration will ensure that we can manage the spread of the virus, and beyond this, to support efforts to get the economy up and running again."
Mining operations scaled down
Last week, the Minister announced that mining operations will be scaled down significantly, particularly deep-level mining, during the lockdown.
Essential services supporting the sector - including security and related infrastructure, maintenance, water pumping and ventilation, continue.
Mines supplying Eskom continue operating while mines producing gold, chrome, manganese, iron ore and other sectors will operate at scaled down levels.
On Tuesday, the department embarked on unannounced visits to three collieries in Mpumalanga - Exxaro's Matla Coal operation, Glencore's Impunzi Colliery and Seriti's Kriel Colliery.
"These operations are among those supplying coal to Eskom. The purpose of our visits was to assess compliance with the directives and guiding principles issued to mines on how to manage and prevent the spread of COVID-19," he said.
During the inspections, he said, the department found that the mines are not at the same level in terms of their state of readiness to respond to COVID-19.
"There are some pockets of excellence, while others are lagging behind. We have encouraged mines to work together, in sharing information and best practice.
On energy, Mantshe said the country has sufficient fuel to meet demand, despite two refineries that have been shut down in Durban and in Cape Town.
"We also appreciate that there has not been loadshedding during this period," he said.