Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 27 January 2012 – The South African government, the mining industry and organised labour have established a joint task team to investigate the implementation of Section 54 notices “’ a function of the Health and Safety Amendment Act that allows the Mines Inspectorate to close down a mine following a fatality or safety incident.
“We will look at the potentially unfair application of Section 54,” said chief mines inspector, David Msiza. The Mines Inspectorate falls under the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR). “If it is revealed that there are issues, then we will look into that,” he said, adding that the idea of the task team was not to change the law.
Chamber of Mines of South Africa CEO Bheki Sibiya confirmed that a task team had been established as a MIGDETT (Mining Industry Growth, Development and Employment Task Team) initiative, but declined to comment further. “This is an internal process and we’re not going to discuss it with the media,” he said.
The task team comes amid pointed comments in the quarterly production reports of Anglo Platinum and Lonmin, which both claimed that safety stoppages had affected production severely.
“Our mining performance in the first quarter of 2012 was however severely impacted by the increase in the Section 54 safety stoppages from the DMR that were experienced industry-wide,” said Lonmin in its report.
Msiza, who was responding to Miningmx questions following speculation in the industry about the task team, said the tripartite partners were currently considering modalities. “We have not set the terms of reference,” he said.
Platinum production has been hit particularly hard by Section 54 notices, with analysts observing that output in October could be down as much as a fifth owing to safety-related stoppages. In its fourth-quarter production review, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said there had been 32 safety stoppages in the period, and 81 in 2011 compared to 36 in 2010.
“The company is continuing to engage proactively with the workforce and the DMR to implement more effective means of addressing major risks,” Amplats said. The Anglo American-controlled company said total refined platinum production was 2.53 million ounces for the 2011 financial year, which represented virtually unchanged production year-on-year.
Msiza said safety in the platinum mines had been a challenge. “As a sector, its safety record did not improve last year,” he pointed out. “We split the North West province into two offices, with a principal inspector in Rustenburg and another in Klerksdorp. We want the Rustenburg office to have a better focus.”
Msiza said his department had received a number of letters from concerned CEOs about the effects of closing a shaft following an accident. “We have engaged some CEOs that a task team should be formed,” said Msiza.
He added that in addition to a fatality, a Section 54 notice could also be applied at a mine if there had been a dangerous occurrence, injuries or a repeat contravention of safety following a visit by a mine inspector.