20180205. Delegates arrive in Cape Town for the 2018 mining indaba gathering. Picture: ANA

CAPE TOWN - The 2018 Mining Indaba kicks off in Cape Town on Monday where issues of health and safety in the mining industry will still be on the minds of delegates, as the day marks exactly two years since three workers were killed after being trapped underground at Vantage Gold's Lily Mine in Barberton in Mpumalanga.

The bodies of Lily Mine workers Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule, and Solomon Nyirenda remain underground despite Deputy Mineral Resources Minister Godfrey Oliphant saying late last year that the container in which the workers were trapped in February 2016 was likely to be retrieved by January 2018. The issue of safety at the mines again came into sharp focus last week when more than 950 workers were trapped for two nights at Sibanye-Stillwater's Beatrix gold mine in Free State after a power outage. There were no fatalities and all workers were rescued uninjured.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba, chief executive of Chamber of Mines Roger Baxter said that the industry was investing time and money, and putting a lot of measures to mitigate deaths at the mines. He said the industry’s efforts were led by its "Zero Harm" programme chaired by Anglo American Platinum CEO, Chris Griffith.

"The industry is taking the safety drive very seriously. Over the last 20 years we have seen an 87 percent improvement in our fatality numbers. There were more than 650 people that were dying in the industry in 1994 versus 74 in 2016. So there has been a lot of purpose being made by leadership," Baxter said. "There is a lot of work done on critical controls, lots of work being done on sizemicity, one of the big areas where we saw improvement based on the numbers we have. So there is a huge amount of senior leadership focused on safety issues. And then we have a mine occupational safety and health learning hub in the Chamber to try to reduce fatalities in the industry."

20180205. Delegates arrive in Cape Town for the 2018 mining indaba gathering. Picture: ANA

In August last year, five workers died at Hamony Gold's Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville after being trapped underground for days following a seismic event. At the time, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said the Kusasalethu incident should be a "turning point" in the health and safety of the country's mining industry, and government would be tougher in exercising its powers on regulatory issues.

These are the realities that Zwane will face when he officially opens the annual Investing in African Mining Indaba and promotes South Africa's mineral wealth and competitiveness on Monday. The Indaba is the world's largest gathering of mining’s most influential stakeholders and decision-makers in African mining.

Zwane will have his job cut out when he engages with delegates to rally the industry's prospects, government's plans, and investment opportunities in South Africa, amid policy uncertainty and looming job losses due to the economic downturn. The industry's application to review the implementation of the contentious Reviewed Mining Charter is set to be heard in the North Gauteng High Court on February 19 to 21.

Zwane will deliver the official opening address, visit the South African exhibition stand to engage exhibitors, and later host a question and answer session with the media. The Indaba runs from February 5 to 8 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC).

Meanwhile, activists from Africa, Asia, and Latin America - members of civil society, faith-based organisations, mining-affected and impacted community members, academics, and other stakeholders seeking "justice" in mining and the extractives industry - will also gather in Cape Town for a three-day "alternative mining indaba". The meeting will receive inputs and lessons from other mining communities and will culminate in a march to present a memorandum to the African Mining Indaba at the CTICC.

 - African News Agency (ANA)