The mining sector has seen a reduction in the number of mine accidents over the past decade; however, a collective effort by the State, employers and organised labour is still required to prevent fatalities, said chief inspector of mining David Msiza.
Speaking at the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) tripartite seminar, at Emperors Palace, in mid-November, he noted that fall-of-ground incidents present a significant challenge to achieving a zero-harm mining industry.
In 2011, falls of ground accounted for 35% of the fatalities in the mining sector, across all mines. Since 2003, the number of fatalities caused by falls of ground has decreased from just over 130 in 2003 to about 50 in 2010.
Meanwhile, the gold industry had the highest number of fatalities this year, so far, followed by the platinum industry, other industries and the coal industry, which scored the lowest fatality rate.
Msiza said the figures for cases of occupa- tional diseases were high, mainly as a result of a poor legacy in managing health risks. The incident of pulmonary tuberculosis had increased from about 2 750 in 2004 to just under 4 500 in 2010.
Silicosis cases had also increased from just over 1 400 in 2004 to about 1 780 in 2010 and the numbers of noise-induced hearing loss cases remained high and were not regarded as a major priority in mines.
Meanwhile, the number of cases of mining-related illnesses reported to the National Health Information Centre has decreased from about 4 500 in 2004 to about 1 250 in 2010.
Msiza said that each role-player had an integrated and equally important part to play to ensure that the sector achieved the goal of zero harm.
Meanwhile, the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) reported that it aimed to develop an integrated policy for the management of HIV/Aids, tuberculosis (TB) and silicosis exposure.
The policy would be in line with the DMR, the Department of Health, the Department of Labour and the South African National Aids Council policies, norms and standards for the mining sector.
The DMR also stated that it would explore policy options to reduce the negative impacts of the migration of mineworkers as well as ensure a strategic and operational plan on tackling TB and HIV/Aids is submitted with all renewal applications and new mining licence applications.