Reiterating concerns about the rise in fatalities in the mining industry since 2020, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) chief inspector of mines David Msiza has said the industry should not be satisfied with any number greater than zero fatalities.
In an address at the Coalsafe 2022 conference, in Johannesburg, on April 5, he said any loss of life or injury would remain of significant concern.
“We believe that if we adopt leading practices and the latest technologies, we can make a huge impact on both health and safety challenges in the sector. So we implore the sector focus on this,” he said.
Msiza added that there was still a culture of noncompliance with health and safety standards at some mining operations, noting that shortcuts were, in some instances, being taken as a result of production pressure.
He said the DMRE also believed that ageing infrastructure in some of the older mines was contributing to the increase in fatalities and injuries.
This infrastructure should be updated, he recommended.
Mining fatalities had been at 615 in 1993 and steadily decreased year-on-year until 2019, when it reached an all-time low of 51.
However, in 2020 it rose again to 60, then 74 in 2021.
Meanwhile, occupational diseases reported in the industry had also fallen steadily from over 6 000 in 2011 to 2 013 in 2020. The three most common diseases reported were pulmonary tuberculosis, noise-induced hearing loss and silicosis.
The mining industry has also lost 749 people to Covid-19 so far, while about 75% of the workforce in the sector has been vaccinated thus far.