Cape Town, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 20 July 2010 – The government of South Africa says platinum producers need to provide tangible plans on how to curb mine accidents, following their protests over new safety directives introduced last week to help reduce fatalities.
The new regulation “’ which restricts how much ore can be extracted by some mechanised mining techniques “’ was imposed after an accident that killed five miners at Aquarius Platinum’s Marikana mine earlier this month.
South Africa is the world’s top platinum producer and a major chrome exporter, but has a dire safety record compared with peers in the industrialised world, partly because it has some of the deepest mines. Last year, 165 miners died in its mines.
“The ball is in their court. They need to really come up with a convincing story that we are not going to have a similar incident again,” chief inspector of mines Thabo Gazi told Reuters. “It’s a mine design problem in our view.” Gazi said collapse of ground, one of the leading causes of death in South African mines, was due not only to supporting struts but also to how the mines were actually set out.
The directive concerns the board and pillar mining method, in which material is mined horizontally, leaving support pillars of untouched material. All mechanised board and pillar mines must reduce the width of the board “’ the gap mined between the pillars “’ from 10m to 6m.
Gazi said mining companies, including Anglo Platinum and ferrochrome producer Xstrata, had been asked to review their mining methods to improve safety.
Aquarius Platinum said it had been reassured after meeting regulators that it would have some flexibility on how to improve safety.