The country achieved a record six months without a mining fatality caused by a fall-of-ground (FOG) in gold and platinum mines, the Minerals Council South Africa said yesterday.
This built on the record performance in the first three months of 2022 when a single person was killed in a fall-off ground (FOG) incident in the coal sector.
“The leadership initiatives and the implementation of strategies, leading practices, and the Minerals Council-led FOG Action Plan to mitigate incidents have resulted in no fatalities in the gold and platinum mines for the first six months of the year,” it said.
The entire industry was FOG fatality-free in the second quarter of the year.
The council said its data showed that 23 employees have died in the year to date (July 18) compared to 29 in the same period a year earlier, marking a 21 percent reduction and the best rate of reduction in fatalities in the first six months of a year.
The council said that it was undertaking a comprehensive review to understand what went well and what it could learn from the past six months. The review would be done by the Minerals Council in collaboration with other stakeholders.
Minerals Council head of safety Sizwe Phakathi said: “This is significant because gold and platinum mines have not had a FOG-fatality-free first six months of the year in the history of South African mining. There were 11 FOG fatalities by the end of June last year.”
In the past three years, including the industry’s record safety performance in 2019, FOG fatalities accounted for at least 20 deaths in each of those three years.
“In 2020 and 2021, the industry reported 60 and 74 fatalities respectively, compared to the all-time low of 51 in 2019,” the council said.
The council said it had held a special meeting in December 2021, where it was agreed to urgently implement eight interventions to halt two years of regression in safety performances in the mining industry and then reverse the trend.
Commenting on the data, the National Union of Mineworkers health and safety national chairperson Duncan Luvuno said in an interview that there should be no fatalities in mines.
“There are many mines that are able to reach zero fatalities. The mining companies should be saying that they want to achieve zero fatalities. They are failing dismally. We can’t be celebrating that 23 people were killed,” Luvuno said.
He said the number of fatalities was still high even if it had decreased from the previous year.
“If fatalities happen, there should be three or four, even though one fatality is one too many. We are disappointed,” he said.
Luvuno said criminal cases should be opened when fatalities occur.
“There are several people that should be convicted when miners die. We should be talking about that, as we have families who have no closure.
“We are going to extend a had to Amcu (The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union), and see if we can’t prosecute these mining companies privately. There is no progress that these mining companies are making, they should stop lying to the communities and the country,” he said.