The number of deaths in mining accidents in South Africa has declined by about 50 percent in the past 10 years, according to the Chamber of Mines. Mine fatalities decreased from 309 in 1999 to 171 in 2008.
So far this year, there have been 66 deaths in mining accidents, compared with 84 during the same period last year.
From the beginning of the year to last Monday there had been a reduction of deaths in mining accidents by 29 percent compared with the same period last year, from 84 to 60, according to the SA Mines Reportable Accidents Statistics System.
According to the Department of Mineral Resources, the number of employees at mines grew from 437 028 in 1999 to 518 519 in 2008, an increase of 19 percent.
At a summit in 2003, the government, organised labour and the Chamber of Mines agreed that it was imperative for safety in the local mining industry to become comparable with international trends by 2013.
A study by the chamber concluded that the South African mining industry’s safety performance was more than 50 percent worse than that of the benchmark countries, Australia, the US and Canada.
To be world class by 2013, fatalities had to be reduced by 20 percent each year:
- The US had 26 fatal accidents at its mines in 2007 and 23 in 2008, according to the US Mine Safety and Health Administration.
- Australia had four in 2007/08, 13 in 2006/07 and 11 in 2005/6, according to the Mineral Council of Australia.
- Canada had eight mining fatalities in 2008 compared with six the previous year.
However, the chamber seems to have accepted the inevitability of deaths in mining accidents by saying that the achievement of the milestones is extremely difficult because of the unique nature of the South African mining environment.
Paul Mardon, the head of health and safety at trade union Solidarity, says: “Our mines are the most dangerous and deepest in the world. The deeper you go, the more unstable the rock.”
Sietse van der Woude, a safety adviser to the chamber, says that in addition to the mining environment contributing to the fatalities, another factor is our culture of health and safety.
The mining companies that have had the most fatalities since the beginning of the year are AngloGold Ashanti (five), Simmer & Jack (five), Anglo Platinum (five) and Harmony Gold (four).
Safety at Harmony
Esha Brijmohan, a spokeswoman for Harmony, said: “It is tragic and disappointing for us that fatalities still occur, despite various safety initiatives that Harmony has in place at all its operations.”
She said the company had rolled out behaviour-based safety programmes at all its operations. Its non-negotiable components are that management must lead by example; continuous verbal communication with all team members; visible creation of awareness of safety-related issues; award and recognition of safety achievements; and the involvement of all stakeholders.
Safety at AngloGold
Joanne Jones, a spokeswoman for AngloGold, said there was nothing to construe from the recent fatalities at the company’s operations.
She said AngloGold had safety systems in place but there was no separate item in the budget for these.
“Work is continuing on training and raising safety awareness. A lot of money is being spent in the operations. At corporate level, the safety transformation programme is on an ongoing basis, which transforms the way we approach safety. Before the implementation of the programme, there was a lot of consultation with all the stakeholders. This quantum shift has now been brought internally.”
Safety at Anglo Platinum
Mary-Jane Morifi, a spokeswoman for Anglo Platinum, said about two years ago the company had adopted its enhanced safety improvement programme, which involves everyone employed by the company. “It is about changing people’s behaviour because an accident involves a human error. It is to ensure that a person takes responsibility for their safety and others around them.”
She added: “Every fatality is thoroughly investigated to ensure that corrective action is taken across the entire company to prevent a recurrence of its cause.”
Source: Business Report