In 2018, Sibanye-Stillwater saw its safety performance for the year deteriorate relative to its previous five-year history.
Following this safety regression, the company proactively implemented a number of new safety initiatives. Fast track to 2019 and in August, Sibanye-Stillwater reported that its South African gold operations had achieved about 365 days of production without a fatality, for the six months ended June 30. In comparison, the company recorded 21 fatalities across the group for the same period in 2018.
So how did Sibanye-Stillwater make such a marked improvement in its safety record? In early 2019, the company adopted both a short- and long-term approach to achieving Zero Harm at all its operations. Short-term interventions included ‘Safety Day’ stoppages; additional capacity building of safety representatives and shift bosses and the introduction of a dedicated anonymous safety hotline.
With an eye on the future, the company formed the global safe production advisory panel (GSPAP) comprising a group of leading academics whose mandate is to provide international insights, best practices and expertise in continuous advancement of safe production mining practices.
In addition, Sibanye-Stillwater has partnered with the Wits Mining Institute to launch Digital Mining Laboratory (DigiMine), a simulated mining environment with the aim of making mines more efficient and safer. In April 2019, the company committed a further R30 million over three year towards technology and innovation research at DigiMine.
Part of the funding will be directed towards the fast-tracking of mine seismicity research and the creation of the Sibanye-Stillwater Health and Safety DNA project.
Most importantly, the technologies and initiatives that Sibanye-Stillwater is putting in place will benefit the broader South African underground mining industry as well and bolster the objective of a zero fatality rate at mines by 2020.