Minerals Council calls for MineSafe summit in November, says tech to improve safety

29th October 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

Industry organisation the Minerals Council South Africa urges the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), organised labour, mine professional associations and mining suppliers to hold the MineSafe summit in November, as soon as possible after the elections, to address the regression in mine safety.

The council, along with the DMRE, organised labour, mine professional associations and mining suppliers supports the expedition of the MineSafe summit to urgently address the regression in safety, the council said on October 29

As of October 28, the number of fatalities at the country’s mines stood at 55, compared with 43 at the same time in 2020.

The industry experienced one of its worst weeks with two multiple fatality incidents. This is the second year of regression in safety performance since the 2019 record-low of 51 fatalities.

The council has also emphasised the role of technology in improving mine safety.

“We see technology as the way to significantly reduce our risks and improve safety. As human beings, we all make mistakes and, by using technology, we can start eliminating the fatal risks from unintentional mistakes,” said iron-ore miner Kumba Iron Ore CEO and CEO Zero Harm Leadership Forum chairperson Themba Mkhwanazi.

“With the regression we are experiencing, we need to put a lot more focus on technology and modernisation to improve skills and mining methods to keep employees safe,” he said.

At the CEO Zero Harm Forum on October 29, CEOs and mine leadership recommitted themselves to achieving fatality-free operations, to re-evaluate and re-energise their safety programmes, and learn from each other to minimise repeated incidents.

“The last quarter of the year is normally a time when higher vigilance is needed, so the urgency of holding the summit and addressing the regression in safety, and agreeing solutions, cannot be understated,” Mkhwanazi said.

The industry is tackling the three leading causes of fatalities in mining through the CEO-led Khumbul’ekhaya strategy, with a focus on a holistic approach to eliminating fatalities as a result of safety and health incidents, including Covid-19, the Minerals Council said in a statement.

The leading cause of fatalities remains falls of ground (FoGs), which is a focus area for the Minerals Council in partnership with the Mandela Mining Precinct and the Department of Science and Innovation. There were 60 fatalities in the full year of 2020, over 20 of which were caused by FoGs.

General types of accidents were the second-largest cause of fatalities, with transport-related incidents third. In terms of transport-related incidents, the Minerals Council has a three-year, R20-million project to support members on the adoption of collision management systems.

The Minerals Council is working with various stakeholders including the DMRE, trade unions, research institutions, academia, original-equipment manufacturers and suppliers on the development of a holistic risk phased approach to the development and implementation of collision avoidance systems technologies.

The Minerals Council is implementing the R46-million, five-year Elimination of FoG Fatalities Action Plan approved by the CEO Zero Harm Forum and the Minerals Council board.

The Action Plan was launched during the National Day of Health and Safety in Mining held on July 8. The Action Plan will complement other industry health and safety initiatives at the Mine Health and Safety Council aimed at achieving a desired step change in the elimination of FoG fatalities.