TSHWANE (miningweekly.com) – The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) on Friday announced the lowest number of mining fatalities on record, at 51 for 2019.
This was a 37% year-on-year improvement, compared with the 81 reported fatalities in 2018.
Fatalities in the gold sector decreased by 53% to 19, while fatalities in the coal sector decreased by 22% year-on-year to seven.
Other commodities saw a year-on-year improvement of 70%, with only six fatalities recorded in 2019, compared with 20 in 2018.
Platinum, however, was the only commodity to see a regression in fatalities during 2019, with 19 fatalities, compared with nine in 2018. This, the DMRE said on Friday, marked a year-on-year regression of 58%.
"The regression in the safety performance of the platinum sector is a concern and specific attention will be paid to this area in the current year," Chief Inspector of Mines David Msiza told the media.
A 2% decrease in the number of injuries, from 2 447 in 2018 to 2 406 in 2019, was also reported.
Occupational diseases, meanwhile, decreased by 22.8% from 4 483 cases in 2017 to 3 458 in 2018.
No disasters were recorded for 2019.
The industry's collective efforts have so far "proven that stakeholder collaboration is critical", Msiza said, adding that the DMRE, in collaboration with the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), would host a Mine Health and Safety Summit later this year.
During the summit, the department will report on the implementation of milestones to improve the occupational health and safety performance of the mining industry.
To address seismic and gravity-induced fall-of-ground (FOG) accidents, the department confirmed that it had worked closely with the established FOG Task Team, which comprise of members of the MHSC, the Council for Geoscience, Minerals Council South Africa, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), Solidarity, UASA and the South African Institute of Rock Engineers.
The DMRE also commented on the power supply interruptions that South Africa has been experiencing and urged mines "to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautionary measures in the case of power interruptions".
In instances where the interruption of electrical supply to any equipment could result in a significant risk, the DMRE urged mines to ensure electricity supply could be provided from another source or network, which could include an emergency supply alternator or generator.
AMCU leader Joseph Mathunjwa commended the good progress in reducing the number of fatalities, but insisted that the industry "can do [even] better".
Mathunjwa also called for companies to contribute to a collective trust for the families of deceased mineworkers.
In a statement on Friday, Minerals Council CEO Roger Baxter commented that "the path to Zero Harm was never going to be an easy or simple one. And we have experienced setbacks. While the industry’s safety and health performance during 2019 is significant progress on what we have been able to achieve in the past, we recognise that our journey is far from over."
He reiterated the Minerals Council's commitment to continuing to work with its social partners on all matters of health and safety.
"We – and I speak for every mining company CEO – remain resolute in our determination to work collaboratively to achieve our goal of Zero Harm.”
Solidarity, meanwhile, urged industry "not to become complacent" as a result of the improvements in 2019.
The briefing was also attended by Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe.