Mechanised development
drilling at the Gold
Fields South Deep mine
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 04 July 2008 – Leading international gold producer Gold Fields Limited has the worst mine death record in South Africa so far this year, with about half of the deaths in the country’s mines occurring at the group’s operations.

The chief inspector of mines at the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) – Thabo Gazi – told Reuters here that deaths in South African mines had fallen 22% to 85 in the first half of this year compared to 109 in the same period in 2007.

“Almost 50% of those deaths are coming from one group – Gold Fields,” Gazi said on the sidelines of a National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) safety meeting. He added that a new Mine Health and Safety Amendment bill, still to be debated in parliament, would seek to improve safety in mines, and slap bigger fines on safety offenders. He hoped the law would come into force by year-end.

Reuters reports that Gold Fields – the world’s fourth biggest gold producer – suffered its latest accident last week when two workers were killed at its key Kloof mine, southwest of Johannesburg. The group lost a total of 70 kg (2 471 ounces) of gold after shutting one of its shafts where the two died after a tremor.

The company has had a string of mishaps this year. It briefly stopped development work at its big South Deep gold mine in early May, after nine workers were killed when the cage they were riding in hurtled down a shaft.

After the incident, Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said safety at the group’s mines was the top priority. On a visit to Kloof mine this week, Holland reiterated that his company would not mine if it was not safe to do so, and that the company was conducting an external mine safety audit.

Daniel Thole, a spokesman for Gold Fields said: “If we can’t mine safely, we won’t mine at all.”

South Africa – a major producer of gold and the world’s biggest source of platinum – suffered more deaths in mines last year than the year before. The government said mineworker deaths had risen 11% to 221 in 2007.

NUM general secretary Frans Baleni said the union would decide later this year whether to call another safety strike. “If there are no improvements in mines in terms of safety by December, we may consider a strike,” he told Reuters.