South African Miners Can Scale Up Vaccination, Sibanye Says

A visitor rides on a zip line inside the mine shaft during a media tour of the Sibanye-Stillwater Khuseleka platinum mine, operated by Sibanye Gold Ltd., outside Rustenburg, South Africa on Wednesday, Oct. 16 2019. Sibanye said its on track to resume paying dividends next year, should the company settle a wage dispute with platinum-mine workers without too much disruption. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg
A visitor rides on a zip line inside the mine shaft during a media tour of the Sibanye-Stillwater Khuseleka platinum mine, operated by Sibanye Gold Ltd., outside Rustenburg, South Africa on Wednesday, Oct. 16 2019. Sibanye said its on track to resume paying dividends next year, should the company settle a wage dispute with platinum-mine workers without too much disruption. Photographer: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) --

Sibanye Stillwater Ltd., one of South Africa’s largest precious metals producers, offered to help the government’s vaccination campaign by inoculating hundreds of thousands of mineworkers and people living in communities near its mining operations.

The company that employs about 84,000 workers has enough capacity at its 45 health and medical facilities to vaccinate 18,000 people a day, Chief Executive Officer Neal Froneman said in an interview Thursday. The government should use Sibanye, as well as facilities at other mining companies, for its campaign because the industry has expertise in screening for and treating tuberculosis and HIV, he said.

“We see vaccination as a major issue in re-establishing economic stability,” Froneman said. “As an industry we probably have more capacity than the national health service and I think it’s really important that government takes note of that.”

South Africa’s mining industry, which employs more than 450,000 people, immediately prepared a range of measures last year to curb the outbreak, from checking the temperature of workers to distributing flu shots and contact-tracing. Mines have their own health facilities because of the large concentration of workers in often remote locations.

Africa’s most-industrialized economy has detected a more infectious strain of the virus, known as 501.V2. The country added more than 18,000 infections on Wednesday and cases have surged to almost 1.3 million. While the government has been criticized by the scientific community for the slow pace of its vaccine procurement, President Cyril Ramaphosa said last week it’s getting an initial 20 million doses, with the first batch of 1.5 million shots of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca Plc. likely to arrive this month.

Even though the government has said it will manage the campaign, mining companies are in the best position to vaccinate communities living near mines, Froneman said.

“We are absolutely ready and willing to do that and I would probably say entire mining industry is ready and available as well,” he said.