164 workers tested positive for COVID-19 in the world’s deepest mine

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TORONTO –
Operations were halted at the world’s deepest operational mine after more than a quarter of the COVID-19 tests given to those who work there gave positive results.

AngloGold Ashanti said on Sunday that she had stopped working at the Mponeng gold mine in South Africa after learning of the 650 tests she has administered since May 14, 164 were positive and “a handful” has not yet been processed.

The “vast majority” of those who tested positive showed no symptoms of COVID-19, the company said. The tracing of contracts was carried out using data from an electronic tracking system normally used to locate missing minors.

Operations at the mine were already operating at half capacity as part of a gradual ramp-up after the government initially ordered the closure of all mines during a pandemic.

According to the company, all those who tested positive will be placed in segregation according to COVID-19 protocols in South Africa, while “the workplace and key infrastructure” will be thoroughly cleaned.

Considered the deepest operational mine in the world, Mponeng’s current operations extend up to 3.4 kilometers below the surface, although the mine itself extends beyond four kilometers in total. AngloGold Ashanti reached an agreement to sell it and other parts of its South African portfolio to Harmony Gold in February, a few weeks before the confirmation of the first case of COVID-19 in the country.

Harmony reported on May 20 that two workers from a contractor at his Kalgold mine, 300 kilometers west of Mponeng, had recently tested positive for the disease.

Many mines in Canada have also been closed due to the increased risk of COVID-19, although normal activity has slowly resumed at most in recent weeks, according to information from the Mining Association of Canada.

According to figures from Johns Hopkins University, more than 22,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 429 related deaths have been reported in South Africa.

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