Minister Shabangu said the Department of Mineral Resources had found in a statistical study that “high profitability in mining companies” correlates closely with “high incidence of accidents”.
“Where there is more profit, there is an increase in fatalities”, Shabangu said in a briefing in Cape Town. The official study contradicts the long held health and safety axiom that lower operational risk ensures higher profit.
Labour protests over mining health and safety
SA National Union of Mineworkers, NUM, said there was “no sign of improved mining safety” as the death toll appears to be rising. Labour protest marches were held in each of South Africa’s provincial capitals in turn in August 2011.
SHEQ researchers have long cautioned sheq practitioners not to depend on mine level or sector data of fatalities, major injuries and major losses, since these figures are too small to reliably indicate trends, and are bound to be sporadic.
Loss incident data is also known to track production levels, and a recent rise in African minining production, following some cutbacks during the credit crunch, is bound to find a parallel in rising incident frequencies.
Mining 2013 sheq milesotones not attained
Mining fatalities and loss time injury incident frequency rates (LTIFRs) remains at levels above the projected decreases required to remain on track for reaching ambitious tripartite 2013 milestones, set in 2003. Many mines have set their own targets beyond 2013 milestones, professing to aim for ‘zero harm’, but few have maintained zero fatalities or zero injuries performance.
SA Chamber of Mines (COM) projects aimed at developing and demonstrating best practice in managing major risks like fall of ground, mobile equipment, silicosis exposure, communication and workplace behaviour, have met with success at pilot level, but general implementation was slowed by the credit crunch and other factors.
NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said “employers were being dishonest in saying that they were doing their best to improve mining safety”.
PHOTO; SA Mineral Resources minister Susan Shabangu warned profitable mines in August 2011 that state data indicated a correlation between better profit, and worsening workplace fatalities and health impacts.