“Last year’s positive safety performance was maintained in the 2008 financial year and there was a remarkable 18,2% improvement in the fatal-injury frequency rate (FIFR) on our mines for 2008,” Harmony Gold CEO Graham Briggs said in Johannesburg last week, at the company’s June-quarter and 2008 financial year-end results presentation.
He added that an incident at the company’s Elandsrand mine last October brought the South African mining industry’s safety under the spotlight, triggering a heightened sense of corporate awareness of occupational safety and health.
“Management remains committed to zero fatalities and every effort is being made to achieve this objective. “Safety is a priority among all operational teams and many hours are being dedicated to safety leadership and awareness.”
Last month, about 6 500 Harmony Gold employees at its Virginia operations halted work after a worker died at its Unisel mine, in the Free State, and another at its Elandsrand operation, in the North West.
Spokesperson Amelia Soares said that the action was not legal, and that, hopefully, workers would return to work.
“Management is talking to the unions,” she said.
“Unisel enjoyed an excellent safety record until this unfortunate incident,” said the company.
Safety audits had been intensified and an audit com-pleted at the end of June this year showed an improvement in the FIFR, of 0,15, compared with 0,35 for the March quarter.
Four employees lost their lives at Harmony’s operations during the June quarter as a result of work-related accidents.
During the year under review, Harmony recorded general safety achievements, among them three years of fatality-free shifts.
The Evander and Tshepong mines both attained 500 000 fatality-free shifts and Virginia, comprising Merriespruit, Unisel and Brand, achieved one-million fatality-free shifts.
Meanwhile, Briggs said Harmony remained focused on sustainable organic growth. Opportunities for further optimisation, improved production and production cost management would be exploi-ted.
Enhanced cash flow would be used to reduce the company’s debt and finance new mine capa- city and other growth initiatives.
He cited Papua New Guinea and, specifically, the Wafi-Golpu area, because of its proximity to the Hidden Valley project, which remained a major exploration focus as this region provided opportunities to create value for shareholders because of the possibilities of a larger and longer pipeline of quality and diversified commodities projects.
“Harmony has been and will remain an acquisitive company should opportunities exist or rise and we will continue to look for value opportunities during 2009,” Briggs concluded.