In 2004, Harmony’s marginal Free State gold-mine, Joel, distinguished itself, after being short-listed for the past three years, by winning the Department of Minerals and Energy’s Mine Health and Safety Council’s Achievement Flag. Joel has also managed a satis-factory financial performance last year.
Mining Weekly paid a visit to Joel’s new GM Paul van As and its new mining manager, Edgar Chandomba, who valiantly tried to provide answers, in spite of having been on the mine for a mere seven days.
Mining Weekly also spoke to Safety and Health manager Marius Barnard, a man with broad shoulders needed to carry the responsibility of Joel’s safety initiative.
“Safety is an extended journeyas it is a case of making steady progress every day,” he explains.
“We have a very simple but strict safety system on the mine, whichreally works for us,” he adds.
He escorts Mining Weekly to the shaft for a trip underground to see firsthand the standards that are applied.
At the shaft, Mining Weekly was introduced to four National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) safety and health representatives, a group of people too often overlooked in the broader scheme of things.
Their spokesperson Ndumiso Lubala explainsthat safety at Joel is amatter of teamwork, between the union, management and the workforce.
“Every worker has the right to perform his or her job in safety, and it is the mandate of the unions to ensure this happens,” he explains.
As fulltime health and safety representatives (FTHSR), Lubala and his colleagues go underground daily to communicate the safety message to their members.
Every underground crew has a FTHSR as an integral member of the team.
Communication, rather than pressure, is the key to success in safety at Joel, Lubala explains.
The NUM represent-atives explain that theyhave an excellent relationship with Joel management.
From the mine side, Van As explains that he will be looking to enhance this relationship in the future.
When one enters the cage, eye protection must be worn, and a NUM safety representative asks this Mining Weekly journalist to put his lamp on his hat, and not to wear it around his neck, as he is accustomed. It is often smaller things ona mine that point the way togreater truths. Alighting from the cage on 90 level, in spite of the marginalnature of the mine, the housekeeping standards are good.
Barnard explains that much of this work is squeezed in over weekends.
On many mines, chairlift declines tend to be littered with discarded cigarette packets, ‘stompies’, used spray cans and other rubbish.
The chairlift declines at Joel are completely free of debris.
“It is a question of attitude,” explains Barnard.
“We start on-surface with the right attitude to our mine and to safety and this thinking is carriedinto the cage, along the levelsand all the way to the face,” he adds.
‘Stop and look’ saves lives
At a neat waiting place in a haulage on the mine’s 110 level,production coach Jannie Raath uses the communication board to explain his daily safety programme.
Every Thursday at 05:15, there is a safety meeting of all management and supervisorystaff where all incidents andaccidents, which have happenedin the Harmony group, are ana-lysed and discussed, he explains.
“Things can get really heated in these meetings,” picks up Barnard, “however, we would rather have pride injured than people.” Fundamental to mine safety is the practice of issue-based riskassessments, Raath continues.
Before any task is undertaken, all the possible hazards are identified. Priority is given to the various hazards and an action plan is set up to counter these.
Risk assessment is nothing new in the industry and Joel has been using this practice since its days as an Anglo mine.
“What Harmony did do, was simplify the practice and procedures to something that was far more user-friendly,” adds Raath.
He produces a typical risk-assessment book, and explains that to make sure that everyperson on the face is fully aware of risks present in the section,individuals are required to sign-off the risk-assessment book.
Risk-assessment books are scrutinised by management at regular intervals.
“It is essential to get people to stop and look at the risks before they take action,” continues Raath.
Every month a different safety topic is introduced, which at the time of Mining Weekly’s visit, was the practice of watering down to prevent hazardous dust.
HIV is now a reality on most South African mines and to counter this scourge the safetymeetings now include a health topic.
Although Raath explains his safety efforts in a down-to-earth manner, the proof is that they have been exceptionally successful.
“I have responsibility for 90 people underground and, today, we have completed more than 400 shifts – more than a year – without a lost-time injury and have completed our last 100 shifts without anyone getting so much as a cut requiring a plaster,” says Raath.
Barnard continues: “One of the slogans we use, is ‘I will not get hurt today’, which gives our people an immediate achievable safety goal.” Safety extends to the smallish contracting staff on Joel, most of whom work for JIC Contracting.
Pine Pienaar is the shift overseer in charge of the JIC workforce.
“When it comes to safety, we adhere to exactly the same procedures and standards laid downby the mine, and we attend all safety meetings,” he explains.
“We are very much part of the Harmony effort,” he adds.
In addition, he also applies his company’s own safety programme.
The history of Joel dates back to 1981 when prospecting began on the farms of Leeuwbult and Leeuwfontein after prospectlicences were obtained in 1978.
What the prospecting un-covered was a relatively shallowgold deposit lying at between600 m and 1 200 m.
The mine has two principal reefs, the older Beatrix reef and the younger VS5 reef.
Ivan Jacobs, Joel’s ore-reserve manager explains that the main economic target is the Beatrix deposit.
The VS5 reef is generally only payable where it has eroded into the Beatrix reef.
A third deposit, known as the footwall reef, is sporadicallydeveloped below the Beatrix reef in the western and central areas of the mine.
Where Joel is blessed is that geological losses in the orebody are very low, in the order of less than one per cent.
The main faults in Joel’s orebody are associated with the Platberg Extensional event, which formed the massive De Bron and its associated faults, which occur on Joel’s eastern boundary.
To the east, the De Bron fault has a 450 m upthrow and has been truncated by the Karoo sediments.
Most faults run north to south on strike and dip steeply, and have downthrows in the east of the mine of between 10 m and 100 m. Smaller faults and dykes are found running east to west, which have caused minimal displacement of the orebody.
In the east of the mining lease area, the Klippan formation, an east-west erosional channel, has cut deeply into the Witwatersrand sediments, taking out the Beatrix VS5 horizon. The Klippan formation hasremoved a significant area ofthe Wits sediments in an east-west channel through the middle ofthe Joel orebody.
This area was filled with debris and though remnants of reef are to be found in this area, finding and exploiting them is not an economical proposition at this stage.
The reef dips to the north at between 11