Pretoria – Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has raised concerns over the safety of miners, saying her department will focus strongly on enforcing safety measures to curb mining deaths.
Tabling her Budget Vote on Thursday, Shabangu said although the industry recorded a decrease in fatalities, the matter was still of great concern.
A total of 165 mine employees died in 2009 compared to 171 in 2008.
“I am still very much concerned about the high number of fatalities in the mining sector – one death is one too many. Consequently, many families lose their sole breadwinners.”
Fall-of-ground accidents still remain the largest accident category and the predominant cause of fatalities followed by transportation and machinery related accidents among others.
To deal with occupational health and safety challenges facing the industry, Shabangu said her department has a number of interventions including the implementation of the amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act to improve enforcement and prosecutions.
“Work is also being done to improve seismic network coverage and seismic systems integration to assess actions taken by mines in dealing with high risk areas which are prone to seismic events,” said the minister.
On illegal mining, Shabangu said her department will be taking strong action to combat illegal mining and criminal syndicates.
She said an Inter-Ministerial Security Cluster task team has been formed to ensure that there is national coordination in the fight against illegal mining.
Moving on to other pressing issues in the department, Shabagu said they will speed up the empowerment of its black majority population into mining ownership and try to meet its 26 percent ownership quota by 2014.
Shabangu is optimistic that despite past failures, government was moving forward and in the process to endorse the new policy aimed at transforming and balancing the race ownership of the South African mining sector.
The country recently commissioned a major review of the Mining Charter signed about five years ago – which requires mining companies to sell a portion of their ownership to black people and other previously disadvantaged groups.
“On the transformation of the mining industry, there’s consensus among stakeholders on the limited progress attained to date.
“The rising tensions between mining companies and host communities, typically in rural areas, are symptomatic of serious challenges that face our intent to grow this industry in a sustainable manner,” she said.
The minister also called on the industry and its partners to mobilise in growing and transforming the minerals sector.
“The mammoth task that lies ahead of us cannot be achieved by any one individual or organisation, but through our meaningful yet distinctive contribution, collaboration and partnerships we will create value for our fellow South Africans and investors through sustainable exploitation of our mineral resources.”