AngloGold’s safety drive running out of steam

Last year there were 14 fatalities at the group and Joanne Jones, an AngloGold spokesperson, said the number of mine deaths at the group so far this year rose to 11 on Sunday with the death of the mine worker at the group’s Mponeng gold mine near Carletonville. Xolani Mdingi, a winch driver from Kokosi, Fochville, was “seriously injured” as a result of the fall of ground accident on Saturday morning.

He was rushed to hospital where he died of his injuries on Sunday. Mdingi had been working at Mponeng for four years.

When Mark Cutifani joined AngloGold as its chief executive in mid-September 2007, he pledged to improve safety at the group and ultimately eliminate mine deaths. In his first year at the helm Cutifani was instrumental in reducing fatalities by 59 percent to 14 from 34 fatalities in 2007.

However, at the rate at which people are dying at AngloGold this year, the group will not maintain the gains in safety achieved last year and the target of zero mine deaths will remain a distance goal.

Last week Wednesday, trade union Solidarity said 117 mineworkers had died in accidents in the local mining industry in the year to date. This compares with 168 last year and 221 mine deaths in 2007, the union added.

Paul Mardon, Solidarity’s head of occupational health and safety, said the drop in mining fatalities is due to several factors.

“Many employers are currently displaying tremendous awareness of seriousness about the issue. Large companies such as AngloGold have already, as part of their strategic policy, emphasised that mining safety had to be the first priority and should be regarded as being even more important than production,” Mardon added.

The increased awareness of mine safety could also possibly be an indirect result of the presidential audit report released last year, he said. The presidential safety audit gave the industry a 66 percent safety compliance mark, compared with the required 100 percent.

In addition, threats about amendments to the safety law, which would stipulate that companies and individuals could in future be held criminally liable for deaths, had also played a role, he said.

Mardon emphasised that the international standard should only be regarded as a milestone and that the eventual objective should be zero fatalities at local mines.

Source: Business Report
By Justin Brown

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