The mining industry's bid to embark on a gradual reboot was engulfed in uncertainty this week when Sibanye-Stillwater and Implats employees returning to Rustenburg mines were blocked by police. The sector, which has social control in its DNA, may be better equipped than most for an orderly restart -- though it must tread carefully in the wake of the historic silicosis settlement.
Parts of South Africa's mining sector have been producing at reduced capacity since the start of the lockdown almost three weeks ago, while other companies have signalled their intention to begin laying the groundwork for a restart, with workers asked to return. The restart initiative followed talks involving the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, trade unions and Minerals Council South Africa.
But things hit a brick wall on Tuesday when police stopped miners from returning to platinum operations around Rustenburg operated by Sibanye-Stillwater and Impala Platinum. The police ministry and the DMRE were clearly not on the same page. Neither immediately responded to requests for comment about the issue.
Implats spokesman Johan Theron told Business Maverick the company's Rustenburg operation had been surrounded by police. "We have asked only essential services people to report until misunderstandings have...