The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy together with leaders from Minerals Council South Africa and organised labour held a MineSafe Conference on November 25 to discuss measures to drive a sustainable improvement in mine health and safety.
The conference was held on the back of a worrying increase in fatalities in the mining industry to 60 in 2020, and to 58, so far this year.
Speaking at a briefing following the conference, Chief Inspector of Mines David Msiza said stakeholders had committed to collaboration and to transforming the culture, with a focus on leadership.
Importantly, in terms of culture, speakers emphasised that workers’ input must be heard and implemented, and they must not be compelled to work under unsafe conditions.
Another important element of culture that was emphasised during the conference was skills development and training of leadership across all levels.
Msiza indicated that stakeholders agreed that an important measure must be to adopt leading practices and technology to prevent the high levels of fall-of-ground (FoG) incidents, as well as technology and machinery incidents.
With regard to FoG incidents, speakers mentioned a FoG action plan, which involves a series of steps and pillars around research and development, the use of technology, skillsets and real-time monitoring, besides others, that should be considered for implementation.
Minerals Council South Africa, through its members, has made a R140-million commitment over the next five years in this regard. A further R6-million has been earmarked for skills development.
With regard to technology and machinery, the industry is adopting a holistic, risk-based approach, with ecosystem readiness for industry-wide adoption by 2023.
Msiza said another major issue was aging infrastructure and a lack of quality mineral reserves, adding that there was a need for a clear programme on how to respond to this.
In terms of collaboration, Msiza said it was acknowledged during the conference that this had been pivotal in the industry recording its lowest ever fatalities in 2019, and that this must be improved upon, especially at mine level.
Others issues raised included mental wellbeing, with programmes needing to be more robust and to cater to workers’ needs.
Speakers emphasised that measures and commitments made during the conference must be implemented and monitored, to ensure that the deterioration does not continue, and to facilitate the industry’s goal of zero harm.