Johannesburg, South Africa — 06 May 2013 – The Mpumalanga province’s coal mining sector in South Africa has safety standards which are comparable to the safest mining countries in the world, according to the South African Chamber of Mines.

The Chamber’s head of safety and sustainable development, Sieste van der Woude, told African Eye News Service that the province’s safety standards were as good as those in the United States, reports Fin24.

“The Chief Inspector of Mines has indicated that coal mining safety in Mpumalanga has reached levels comparable to the United States. This is a remarkable achievement,” said Van der Woude.

She said that total mining deaths in South Africa in 2012 numbered 110, a 9% decrease from 128 deaths in 2011. “Of the total fatalities for 2012, 18 occurred in coal mines. The United States had 19 fatalities in coal mines for the same period,” he stated.

Van der Woude added that so far this year 33 fatalities had been recorded in South Africa, dropping from 39 recorded in the same period last year. “Through a number of initiatives, we have managed to consistently bring fatalities down year on year.”

In 2003, the Mine Health and Safety Tripartite Leadership was formed between labour unions, government and mining companies. The alliance agreed on a “zero harm” initiative with the goal of reducing fatalities.

“We set out to achieve this objective by the year 2013. We are not quite there as a whole, but Mpumalanga province has now reached this target,” Van der Woude said.

According to statistics released by the department of mineral resources, 270 mining accident fatalities were recorded nationally for 2003, more than double last year’s toll.“Various initiatives undertaken by the tripartite collaboration have contributed to this decrease.
“The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Representative Development Project was established in 2008 to train 40,000 health and safety representatives,  while an action plan was developed to strengthen the mining safety culture, leadership and ownership,” said Van der Woude.

The OHS project was given a budget of R54 million per year for five years for this purpose, while a Mine Inspector Training Project was also established to identify and implement training courses for mine inspectors.

Van der Woude said that the main cause of fatalities had shifted from falls or ground accidents to transport-related deaths.

“Mining safety underground, which has traditionally been the biggest contributor to deaths, has improved substantially, and now the industry needs to focus on preventing transport related deaths.”

Source: Fin24. For more information, click here.