South African Mineral resources Minister Ngoako RamatlhodiFatalities in the mining industry have dropped by 10% to the lowest level ever in South Africa’s history, according to Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi.

In 2014, 84 miners were killed, which is down from 93 in 2013. “The breakdown of fatalities per commodity during the year 2014 is as follows: gold, 44; platinum, 15; coal, nine; and other mines, 16,” he told reporters in Pretoria on Friday. Other mines include diamond, chrome, copper, and iron ore mines.

“It is encouraging to note that 2014 mine fatalities are the lowest ever recorded in the history of mining in South Africa,” he added. The decrease in mining fatalities follows the trend set in 2013 when mining deaths dropped from over 100 annually, and Ramatlhodi applauded the sector’s steady progress. In 1993, 615 miners were killed, and the 2014 figure represents an 86% improvement.

2015 is off to a bad start

Nevertheless, 7 workers have already been killed in January 2015, and the minister said “I want to convey my serious concern that we continue to experience loss of life in the sector. It is with deepest regret and sadness that so early in 2015, seven mine workers have already lost their lives.”

Gold and platinum mines are main contributors to accidents and fatalities, he said. “This is regrettable, as we believe that these mines should be at the forefront in terms of the appropriate systems and expertise to enhance health and safety. Workers’ health and safety is crucial to mining’s long-term sustainability, hence our steely resolve to implement enforcement measures in terms of the law.”

Considering the stats

Most mining fatalities (35%) are grouped into “general classification,” which includes inhaling dangerous fumes, being struck by an object, and falling from heights. Meanwhile, falls-of-ground make up 30% and transportation-related deaths account for 17% of fatalities in the industry.

Injuries have also dropped over time, falling about 18%, from 3 123 in 2013, to 2 569 in 2014. However, many reported injuries are not new and are mainly due to repeated accidents. “Although this is the lowest ever reported, the department is still greatly concerned about the high number of injuries reported at our mines,” Ramatlhodi said.

Occupational diseases have decreased by 170% since 2003, from 18 371 to 6 810 cases in 2013. The biggest reductions included pulmonary tuberculosis and noise-induced hearing loss.

“The gold sector continues to report a higher number of occupational diseases than all the other sectors. The poor implementation of health programmes at some mines remains a major concern,” Ramatlhodi said.

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