JOHANNESBURG – The number of mining casualties both globally and locally highlight rising concerns about the appropriateness of current mining safety standards.
In a statement on Wednesday, science-based products company DuPont said South African mining casualties stood at 24 since the beginning of 2010 – "an average of eight deaths a month".
It added that this figure – together with the recent mining accidents in West Virginia, US and in Xiangning, China – raised concerns about mining safety.
Carlman Moyo, regional director for DuPont Sub-Saharan Africa, said a culture of safety needed to start with top executives and stressed that mining houses could not continue to use the same practices they had been employing for decades.
"A major problem is that many safety measures focus almost exclusively on sustaining trapped miners long enough to rescue them, not on preventing underground explosions and disasters."
Moyo said safety procedures needed to be fully integrated into the daily operations in mines. "In this way, workers become aware of daily hazards and take steps to protect themselves and others from harm."
Moyo said mining houses needed to invest in the technology that allowed them to mine at the current deeper levels without compromising safety standards.
"Preventive measures could include requiring coal companies to pump out the methane gas before mining a coal deposit and conducting more accurate testing to determine the flammability of conveyer belts and other mine equipment, the most common causes of mine fires."
He said protective apparel should be compulsory for anyone who was working on a mine.
"They provide protection against falling debris as well as chemical, electrical and organic hazards that workers are exposed to daily."
Moyo said DuPont had identified that non-adherence to basic safety standards was one of the biggest problems in local mining practices.
"There are minimum safety levels in place, but the industry is too under-resourced to police basic safety compliance.
"This, combined with the mounting pressure on mining houses to reach production targets, often results in safety becoming a secondary focus."
Moyo encouraged mining organisations to engage with safety specialists in the industry, for their expertise knowledge and experience in global best practice safety methods.
"In many cases improved safety performance at mines has also led to increased productivity and output."