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Covid-19 rattles Morupule Coal Mine

Morupule coal mine

Production at Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) has been significantly reduced following the outbreak of COVID-19 at the wholly government owned mine, WeekendPost has learnt.

Responding to a questionnaire, MCM Chief Public & Corporate Affairs Officer, Mrs Boineelo Seitshiro revealed that the mine partially closed offices on 06 October 2020 following confirmation of some Covid-19 cases among some of its employees.

“As at 13 October 2020, a total of 20 positive cases were registered and the contract tracing of close contacts is ongoing and being conducted by the District Health Management team (DHMT),” she said.

Mrs Seitshiro further revealed that the Mine has indeed lost one of the employees who had been admitted at Palapye Hospital following a referral by the Mine Doctor. As reported by the Deputy Coordinator of COVID-19 Taskforce, Professor Mosepele Mosepele on Monday, Seitshiro noted that the employee had underlying conditions.

Last week this publication was informed that MCM’s response to the COVID-19 situation was somewhat slow. The information suggested that in the buildup to deterioration of the employee’s health, he had displayed unusually symptoms and sought to be given sick leave.

According to this information, the employee‘s request was denied until his situation worsened. This, according to WeekendPost sources, led to exacerbation of his condition and possibly further spread and transmission of the coronavirus to other employees.

However contrary to this MCM spokesperson said the patient passed on after he was discharged from hospital and his medical report stated he had underlying conditions. “The employee was never refused sick leave as he was taken to the hospital immediately by the mine ambulance,” she said.

Seitshiro further noted “Employees who are identified as close contacts are placed on quarantine while awaiting their test results.” She explained that contact tracing by DHMT was ongoing and as such it is still premature to give a confirmed number of total employees earmarked as probables.

As at 13 October 2020, more than 116 employees were tested, 20 of which were confirmed positive while the rest of the results came out negative. Mrs Seitshiro told WeekendPost that Production has been reduced since the outbreak of covid-19 in the mine. Howver, she noted that the company responded swiftly to ensure business continuity.

“As an essential services company continuity is critical, we are producing and supplying coal nonetheless to most of our domestic customers.” MCM says the confirmation of COVID 19 cases further slowed down production following the partial closure of the mine with only skeleton staff reporting to work to service other essential service customers.

After immediate response the mine resumed production, albeit at a reduced output after conducting all the necessary health and hygiene protocols of fumigating offices and mine equipment and intensifying health protocols.

The company revealed that the cases were mostly localized in one section (Mining). “But as a small community we had to take precautionary measures to prevent further spread by partially closing the entire Mine,” said Mrs Seitshiro.

She reiterated that there has been a reduction in production. “However, we drew from the strategic stockpile which is meant for eventualities such as the one we are experiencing.” The MCM chief spokesperson noted that since the outbreak of COVID 19 pandemic, the mine immediately established measures to prevent the infection and spread of the Corona Virus.

An internal response team was instantly deployed to assess COVID 19 risks and develop mitigation strategies and weekly assessments were conducted to reinforce compliance.  Some of the interventions that the Mine put in place and continue to reinforce even up to this moment include, Placement of Sanitizer dispensers at all strategic areas around the mine and screening of everyone who enters the mine premises.

Mrs Seitshiro said the mine has adopted a virtual approach to all meetings. “Only virtual meetings are allowed and where there is a need to engage on face to face meetings all the necessary protocols are maintained.”

To curb further outbreaks in the mine which produces coal for national power generation, Mrs Seitshiro said “further risks assessment and precautionary measures are being deployed to avoid further spread and Communication with all concerned stakeholders is ongoing.”

Morupule Coal Mine (MCM) is located 14km northwest of Palapye on the Serowe-Palapye Road (the A14) in the Central District of Botswana. MCM started production in 1973 as an Anglo American Corporation subsidiary.

In 2000, Debswana Diamond Company, a partnership between De Beers and the Botswana government, acquired MCM as its 100%-owned subsidiary. In 2016, the Government of Botswana acquired 100% shareholding of Morupule Coal Mine.

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