Although there has been an historic improvement, the continued loss of life, injuries and diseases in the South African mining sector still remains of great concern, Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) chief inspector of mines David Msiza laments.
Speaking during the Coalsafe virtual conference on September 22, Msiza said that a “step change” is required to prevent harm to mineworkers and to progress towards the goal of zero-harm.
However, while the DMRE intends to continue to collaborate with all tripartite stakeholders in implementing effective measures to ensure that this goal is achieved, challenges still remain.
Incidents have increasingly been involving materials handling, transport and elevator accidents, Msiza stressed.
Often referred to as miscellaneous accidents, Msiza urged the South African mining industry to investigate these accidents so that operators can “understand what caused the loss of life”.
This increased vigilance should be undertaken together with medical practitioners, he added, and be done in collaboration with the Department of Health.
Overall, Msiza said that over the last year, the core mining sector indicated there had been improvements made in the sector, with the number of fatalities recorded mainly in government, and in the personnel and platinum sectors.
“Health matters should be a priority, because the impact is lasting,” Msiza said, referring to exposure to airborne pollutants and dust, for example, within the mining sector.
“What is of great concern is that more than 10% or 12% of mineworkers are overexposed to high levels of gas that might lead to tuberculosis,” which he is concerned may put mineworkers at more risk of becoming infected with Covid-19, among other diseases.
In relation to the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 40% of the mining workforce has been vaccinated thus far, which Msiza said is another step towards preventing the loss of life of mineworkers.
The timely adoption of technology and leading practice to protect the health and safety of miners, as well as achieving the Mine Health and Safety Tripartite Summit milestones, will further contribute to this.