Department to get tough on mining safety

Susan Shabangu, the South African Minister of Mineral Resources  was deeply concerned about the latest spate of fatalities in mines, in which six employees had died owing to falls of ground and a blasting accident, she told the National Council of Provinces on Friday.

Speaking at her budget vote, she said these deaths had occurred in the first week of this month at Simmer & Jack in the North West, Samancor Eastern Chrome Mines in Limpopo, and Harmony’s Joel Mine in the Free State.

Shabangu said the mining companies that had had the most fatalities so far this year were Anglogold Ashanti, Harmony, Simmers, Anglo Platinum and Gold Fields.

The mining industry had suffered 45 fatalities in the year to date, compared to 57 deaths for the corresponding period last year, representing a 21 percent decline in mining fatalities year on year since the beginning of the year, said Shabangu.

She said the major causes of deaths were falls-of-ground, transportation and machinery accidents.

In dealing with these pressing safety challenges, the department would continue with interventions such as the sustained issuing of instructions for stopping either sections of a mine, or even the entire mine, where necessary.

The department would improve enforcement and prosecutions in line with the recent amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act and would continue to engage with the chief executives of mining companies to highlight its concerns regarding the current fatality trends and to demand tangible commitments to improve on health and safety.

“Work is also being done to integrate seismic networks and systems to improve transparency and access to seismic information. This will ensure that appropriate actions are proactively taken by mines in dealing with high-risk areas that are prone to seismic events,” said the minister.

A pilot project would be carried out in Gauteng and North West as these were areas prone to seismicity.

Shabangu said the mining industry continued to form the backbone of the South African economy, accounting for more than half of exports. The challenge, however, was that most minerals were exported as ores rather than high-value intermediate or finished products.

“In order to assist the country to leverage long-term benefits from its substantial mineral endowment, we have developed a mineral beneficiation strategy which seeks to facilitate further economic diversification, expedite progress towards a knowledge-based economy and create decent and sustainable jobs.”

The department was finalising consultations on the strategy, which would soon be submitted to cabinet, Shabangu said.

Source: Business Report


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