In light of the growing number of fatalities in South African mines, the Minerals Council South Africa plans to launch a national campaign of Safety and Health Days in Mining, in mid-August.
The Minerals Council on Wednesday said its board is deeply disappointed, concerned and saddened by the increase in fatalities experienced in the mining industry in 2017 and 2018.
The campaign is in addition to the active steps being taken by the Minerals Council and its members to address the industry’s safety performance and is aimed at getting the industry’s quest for zero harm back on track.
“This [health and safety] day will mark both the remembrance of those whose lives have been lost in mining, and a renewed and absolute commitment by all member companies to the safety and health of employees as the primary objective of every company,” Minerals Council president Mxolisi Mgojo said.
He added that, in August, every member company would initiate a Safety and Health Day at its operations, representing a visible commitment that safety and health are the foremost priorities for the industry’s leadership.
He further noted that the spate of unrelated accidents since 2017 has resulted in a rising fatality trend after more than 20 years of almost uninterrupted fatality rate improvements.
The most serious accidents of this year range from falls of ground following a seismic event, to employees accessing old areas, to an underground fire. Intensive investigations are being undertaken around each incident, and these take time. Their outcomes will provide greater insight and guidance on the way forward.
When the downward trend in fatalities showed signs of reversing last year, the Minerals Council mobilised its resources and members, in an effort to address the accidents and incidents that were occurring.
Initial indications showed an increase in falls of ground, specifically related to seismic events.
Addressing fall-of-ground incidents, particularly at deep-level mines, is an area that joint industry efforts have focused on most intensively over the past several years.
This focus is reflected in the more than R150-million that the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) has invested in gravity falls of ground research. Through the MHSC, more than R250-million has been spent on research into the seismicity associated with deep-level mines.
The research outcomes have led to new mine designs and methods and, until last year, continuous improvements in outcomes.
“The industry recognises that more needs to be done. The Minerals Council and its members will continue to work with its stakeholders, including government and organised labour, to protect the occupational health and safety of all mineworkers,” he said.