Members of the Minerals Council South Africa reported 60 fatalities in 2020 compared with 51 a year earlier when the mining industry recorded its lowest recorded fatalities. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)
Members of the Minerals Council South Africa reported 60 fatalities in 2020 compared with 51 a year earlier when the mining industry recorded its lowest recorded fatalities. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

SA’s mining industry safety record deteriorates

By Dineo Faku Time of article published Jul 9, 2021

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MEMBERS of the Minerals Council South Africa reported 60 fatalities in 2020 compared with 51 a year earlier when the mining industry recorded its lowest recorded fatalities.

The council said that the industry’s safety record had deteriorated with 32 fatalities in the year to date compared to 24 for the same time last year.

Speaking during the virtual National Day of Health and Safety in Mining 2021, council president Nolitha Fakude said, unfortunately, due to the physical and mental fatigue largely as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, safety and health numbers of members were regressing.

“In 2020, we, unfortunately, saw a deterioration in mining safety performance in terms of fatalities. Furthermore, thus far, in 2021, we are seeing a worsening of the fatality trend. This is not acceptable to us, the Minerals Council and our members,” said Fakude.

Mining has been under pressure to meet their environmental, social and governance standards, resulting in the council adoption of Khumbul’ekhaya, a strategy to holistically deal with health and safety incidents.

Chairperson of the CEO Zero Harm Forum, Themba Mkhwanazi, said that there had been regression despite a shutdown and reduced operations during the early stages of the lockdown.

“This regression was in all commodities, except platinum, which has shown improvements,” he said.

He said the gold sector was the most affected with 15 fatalities, followed by platinum with seven fatalities, and coal with five fatalities and other commodities with five.

Illegal mining activity on mine dumps and operating mines was also a challenge for the mining industry.

Last month, police discovered the bodies of 20 zama zamas near a mine shaft in Orkney North West.

Chief mining inspector David Msiza said illegal mining was a grave concern. “We are seeing more violence associated with these criminal activities and the use of guns.

“Hence, the minister has engaged with his counterpart Minister Bheki Cele to ensure there is a special task force to look at these things,” Msiza said, adding that in an effort to eliminate illegal mining, the department was promoting legitimate and small mining and was also ensuring unused shafts were closed.

“If we do not deal with the market, in other words, where this gold is going, we will still struggle.

“We have approached the UN, and we are working with Interpol to ensure that, ultimately, we eradicate this challenge.

The department said to date, 444 mineworkers had succumbed to the Covid-19 pandemic. The industry has conducted 166 215 Covid-19 tests with 38 372 positive cases confirmed.

The council said there was a 26 percent improvement in injuries from 2 452 in 2019 to 1 814 injuries.

Mkhwanazi said there had been an increase in the number of falls of ground incidents with 11 so far this year: 10 were related to rock falls, and one to a seismic event compared withl a total of 21 last year.

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