Government will not compromise on mine safety, the department of mineral resources said.
“Government is determined to ensure that safety measures in South Africa’s mines are improved and we will not compromise on achieving that objective,” the chief inspector of mines Thabo Gazi said in a statement.
This followed a directive from the department last week imposing new safety regulations on platinum mining companies in North West that could affect both the amount and the cost of production.
The companies were ordered to reduce the width of the panel that is mined to six metres to allow more support pillars.
The directive was a result of a recent accident at the Marikana mine — a joint venture between Anglo Platinum and Aquarius Platinum — that killed five mineworkers.
“Significant gains have been made in improving safety over a number of years but recent accidents in platinum mines are eroding the hard-earned gains which have been made over time and all indications are that these accidents are preventable,” Gazi said.
He said regional inspectors were working with employers and trade unions to address the specific problems in their areas.
“Mine health and safety inspectors are duty-bound to issue corrective orders to mines when they encounter non-compliance or life-threatening conditions.”
“Mines then either comply or they are entitled to appeal as stipulated in the Mine Health and Safety Act.”
Gazi said it was “regrettable” that some mining companies had chosen not to follow due process.
“Following the recent spate of accidents in the platinum sector, we have had constructive discussions with companies and we will continue to engage with both business and labour on how we can improve on safety.”
He said following Monday’s meeting in Pretoria between the department, platinum mining companies operating in North West and representatives of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), it was agreed that the companies would review their mining methods and report to the department on what measures they would implement to improve safety.
In a separate statement, Aquarius Platinum said Monday’s meeting with the department had been “positive and constructive.”
The company — together with its international mining consultant — was reviewing mine design and support parameters to present best practice guidelines to the department in respect of each of its mines.
In the interim, Aquarius Platinum would continue to apply its existing mining techniques and would shortly present to the department interim safety measures which it intended to implement to ameliorate the threat of fall of ground incidents, pending the outcome of the review.
“We are grateful to have been able to clarify the recent directive with the department, and we welcome the opportunity for each of our mines to make individual presentations on safety to the Inspectorate,” said CEO of Aquarius, Stuart Murray.
He said the company had already completed an initial consultation with the department as part of the ongoing review process.
“We are greatly encouraged by the decisive leadership and co-operative attitude displayed by the department, and by the spirit of the review.”
Murray said it was clear that all parties had safety as their priority and were looking for a pragmatic solution to achieve that objective.
Source: I-Net Bridge