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SA mine deaths fall to record low as safety improves

By Felix Njini Time of article published Jan 24, 2020

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JOHANNESBURG - The number of workers killed at South African mines dropped to the lowest on record last year, a sign that safety performance is improving at some of the world’s deepest shafts.

There were 51 fatalities reported, down from 81 a year earlier, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy said in a statement handed to reporters in Pretoria on Friday. It doesn’t provide a breakdown of mining companies responsible for the deaths.

“We are doing relatively better than we expected, we have improved dramatically, but lets aim for a fatality-free mining industry,” Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe said at the briefing.

South Africa’s mines are among the world’s deepest and least mechanized, typically relying on older, labor-intensive mining methods. Still, the number of workers killed at operations has plunged from more than 550 in the mid-1990s. Deaths at gold mines last year more than halved to 19, while fatalities at platinum-group metals mines rose to 19 from 12.

“The lowest recorded fatalities in 2019 at 51 shows that there’s a possibility of a fatality-free mining industry and that’s what we are striving for,” the ministry cited Minister Gwede Mantashe as saying in comments posted on Twitter.

A poor safety record has contributed to slower investment at some South African mines in recent years, along with depressed commodities prices and rising labour and power costs.

Nineteen people died in gold mines last year, 19 in platinum mines, seven in coal mines and six in other types of mine, the ministry said. 

BLOOMBERG / REUTERS

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