JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The recent spike in fatalities at South African mines, with the most recent occurring at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine, near Carletonville, should serve as a timely reminder to the mining industry that a significant step change in health and safety practices is needed to ensure the goal of zero harm is achieved, Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) chief inspector of mines Mthokozisi Zondi said on Friday.
A tremor measuring 1.3 on the Richter scale caused sections of the Kusasalethu mine to collapse at around 10:30 on August 25, resulting in the death of five employees.
Zondi was addressing delegates during the MineSAFE 2017 conference, in Johannesburg, where he lamented that, despite a decrease in fatalities and injuries at mines in recent years, a lot more needed to be done to ensure the industry met its target of reducing injuries and fatalities by 20% a year by 2020.
He added that mines also needed to reduce the number of employees that were overexposed to noise and airborne pollutants by engineering control measures.
However, Zondi pointed out that there had been a 10% year-on-year decrease in the number of fatalities recorded between January 1 and August 28. The gold sector recorded 26 fatalities which was the same during the corresponding period in 2016. The platinum sector recorded 15 fatalities during the period, which was a 29% improvement on the 21 fatalities recorded in the comparable period of 2016.
The coal sector was the worst performing sector, with six fatalities, which marked a 100% increase in fatalities over the comparable period in 2016.
Other commodities improved by 33% to six, from the nine fatalities recorded in the comparable period of 2016.
Further, Zondi highlighted that there was a 10% reduction in the number of injuries recorded in 2017, at 1 714, compared with 1 896 in the same period in 2016. The gold sector reduced injuries by 15%, platinum by 1%, coal by 13% and other commodities reduced injuries by 16% year-on-year during the period.
HEALTH AND SAFETY AWARDS
Meanwhile, during the MineSafe conference, industry awards were presented to those companies that had achieved outstanding safety, health and environmental performances in the South African mining industry.
The best-in-class safety award was awarded to companies that achieved the lowest progressive total injury frequency rate (TIFR) reported in the period July 1, 2016, to June 1, 2017, and was awarded to companies in their respective commodity sectors.
In the gold industry, the top prize went to gold major Gold Fields’ South Deep mine, in Gauteng. In the platinum sector, it was awarded to platinum producer Anglo American Platinum’s Twickenham mine, in Limpopo. While, in the coal sector, the top prize went to coal miner Umcebo’s Middelkraal mine, in Mpumalanga.
The top award for the diamond industry went to Petra Diamonds’ Finsch mine, in the Northern Cape. Assmang and African Rainbow Minerals joint venture Beeshoek iron-ore mine, in the Northern Cape, received the award in the base metals category.
The top prize for a process plant was awarded to gold miner AngloGold Ashanti’s West Wits operations, in Gauteng. AngloGold Ashanti also received the award for the most improved mining company in terms of safety performance.
The John T Ryan Trophy – which is named after the original founder of personnel protective equipment supplier MSA – was awarded to a surface mine and an underground mine respectively that recorded the lowest TIFR during the past year. The trophy for surface operations went to diversified mineral resources company Exxaro’s North Block Complex coal mine, in Mpumalanga, while the underground trophy was won by Assmang’s Black Rock mine, in the Northern Cape.