South Africa. Mining companies and Labour Unions argued over how to tackle mine deaths, presenting divergent opinions to parliament over a new law meant to make the country’s mines safer.
The country’s appalling underground Safety performance saw 221 mine deaths last year, up from 200 in 2006.This prompted the government to shut down operations temporarily after fatal accidents, reducing output.
The proposed new Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill revealed key differences between the Chamber of Mines (CoM), which represents mining companies, and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
“The role of legislation is critical, but the role should be a balance between a preventative approach and a punitive approach,” said Frans Barker, chief negotiator at the CoM.
“If you have legislation that is punitive, you will have results in the short-term, there will be an improvement, but it won’t be sustainable,” Barker said.
The Chamber wants investigation reports about mine accidents be “ring fenced” so that they could not be used in criminal or civil proceedings against management and it wants higher financial penalties be reconsidered.
The NUM argues that the proposed 1 million rand fine is inadequate for large mining employers with multi-billion rand operations and proposes that fines be targeted at 10 percent of the company’s annual turnover.
“Such a penalty would in the NUM’s view create a real incentive for mines to improve their Health and Safety performance,” said NUM in its submission.The union has also called for prosecution of mine managers.
“In our view, the successful prosecution of employers and senior managers with direct statutory responsibilities to ensure that a mine is operated in a healthy and safe manner will have a fundamental impact on Health and Safety at mines,” the NUM said.
The Bill proposes increases to criminal liability and penalties from R200 000.00 to Rand 1 million.
Posted: Thu 14 Aug 2008