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Mines safety probe ready

Buyelwa Sonjica,
Minerals and Energy
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 25 August 2008 – The safety audit of South African mines ordered by President Thabo Mbeki late last year has been completed, and was scheduled to have been submitted to the minister of minerals and energy during the course of the weekend.

Reporting this development here, Bloomberg News quoted departmental spokesman Bheki Khumalo as saying that mines and energy minister Buyelwa Sonjica would consult with the President, and they would decide whether the report would be made public or not.

President Thabo Mbeki instructed the minister in October to conduct an audit of all the country’s mines to determine whether they were meeting the law’s prescribed health and safety standards.

The audit was ordered after an accident last year which trapped 3 200 workers underground at Harmony Gold’s Elandsrand mine for close to 48 hours. This incident highlighted mine safety issues, coming after a string of fatal accidents which reached 221 last year – up from 199 in 2006.

Interim results of the safety audit of South African mines were “worrying” because they showed a low level of safety compliance, a top government mining official told parliament in June.

"We’ve been doing this presidential audit and the results will be out soon and they are worrying," Thabo Gazi, the chief inspector of mines at the Department of Minerals and Energy told MPs during a briefing on a new mine safety bill.

“They are really worrying because generally levels of compliance in our industry are low,” he said. He added that the audit – which targeted 333 high-risk mines – was close to being finalised and was expected at that stage to be handed over to Mbeki any time from mid-July.

Minerals and energy minister Buyelwa Sonjica is on record as saying “the buck for health and safety in the mines has to stop with top management of the mining companies.”