Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane
Mosebenzi Zwane
DMR mining minister Mosebenzi Zwane

The Department of Mineral Resources’ (DMR) minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Thursday announced South Africa’s 2015 mining health and safety statistics which were an improvement on 2014, but only marginally.

77 fatalities were reported in 2015, compared to 84 in 2014. While this equates to an 8% improvement year on year, it is only seven fatalities less.

Nonetheless, “it is a noteworthy achievement” according to Zwane who continued stating the numbers are “the lowest ever fatalities recorded in the mining sector and a result of the collaborative efforts between all industry stakeholders.”

Gold mines reported 33 fatalities in 2015 versus a total of 44 in 2014. Coal mines reported five fatalities in 2015 versus a total of nine in 2014. Other mines reported 17 fatalities in 2015 versus a total of 15 in 2014. This includes the diamonds, chrome, copper, iron ore and other sectors.

Only the platinum sector saw an increase in fatalities, from 16 in 2014 to 22 in 2015. This can be attributed to the five month platinum strike in 2014 which saw multiple operations shut down their production.

Unfortunately, this sector has started 2016 with further safety challenges after four Impala Platinum workers died from an underground fire at the company’s 14 Shaft.

“Furthermore, the South Africa mining sector is now comparing favourable in terms of the fatality rates, when compared with other countries such as the United States and Canada,” Zwane noted.

12 month fatality-free mining examples

Zwane highlighted those mining companies by name who have been operating for more than 12 months without fatalities which include:

Reduction in occupational diseases

The figures for 2014, confirmed in 2015, reveals an improvement of just 3% on the number of occupational diseases reported from 6 810 in 2013 to 6 577 in 2014.

The rate of Asbestosis related cases has increased by 50% due to the late development of symptoms. South Africa’s asbestos mines were close 20 years ago the minister reminded.

Chamber of Mines shows its support

“We are gratified to note the continuing improvement in safety performance, particularly the sustained reduction in the number of fatalities in accidents on our mines. The 87% improvement in this outcome over the past 21 years is testimony to the significant safety efforts of management, employees, government and trade unions,” the Chamber of Mines said in a statement.

While 2015 saw an overall reduction of 8% in mining fatalities during 2015 compared to the same period in 2014, we reaffirm our acknowledgment that we cannot rest until every mineworker returns from work unharmed every day.

We mourn the loss of our 77 colleagues to accidents in 2015, and we mourn those who have died in the first month of 2016. We wish all those employees who were harmed in accidents a speedy recovery.

The Chamber has also reaffirmed its commitment to achieve the objectives set out at the 2014 Health and Safety Tripartite Summit.

The work of the MOSH Learning Hub, established by the Chamber in 2009 to help companies learn improved safety methods from one another will continue its work unabated. Among the success stories of this work are:

  • Various improvements in underground support methods that have resulted in fewer fatalities attributable to fall of ground incidents.
  • Through the Mine Health and Safety Council, more than R250 million has been spent on research into the seismicity associated with our deep-level mines. The research outcomes led to new mine designs and methods. The number of fatalities associated with seismicity has fallen from 48 in 2003 to four in 2014.
  • In line with the Culture Transformation Framework developed by the Mine Health and Safety Council, we are changing our accident investigation methods to reduce blame, modifying our bonuses to enhance Zero Harm production, are planning more emphasis on leadership being visible in the operations.
  • In the area of occupational health, foggers and scraper-winch covers have reduced dust levels significantly.

A further priority area is the health, hygiene, safety and security of women in mining, particularly those working underground. The work ranges from issues of appropriate design of personal protective equipment for women, to taking all possible steps to deal energetically with the challenges of sexual harassment.

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