Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG - Impala Platinum remained concerned about safety at its Impala Rustenburg shafts after nine employees died on duty in the year to June, Impala chief executive, Nico Muller,  said on Thursday.

Muller said safe production was vital to the sustainability of the business and human behaviour was a major contributor to accidents. 

“Human behaviour continues to contribute to many safety incidents and the emphasis is on ensuring effective leadership, responsible behaviour, and driving a culture of personal accountability and interdependence,” he said. 

Muller said  Zimplats, its Zimbabwe subsidiary had achieved a safety milestone after completing a consecutive 365 days without a single lost-time injury. 

Also read: Impala Platinum plans to end losses by 2019

“Safety is very important to us because it  affects the lives of our people, we take it very seriously. It is fundamental to everything we are doing,” he said. Impala Rustenburg said it had been impacted by two extraordinary events that reduced output during the year to June.

The first was the fire at 14 Shaft in January 2016 which resulted in the temporary closure of the decline section at this shaft to effect repairs. The second event was the collapse of ground incident at 1 Shaft in May 2016, resulting in the introduction of reduced UG2 panel lengths in certain areas. 

“The required work at both shafts has progressed well, with rehabilitation at 14 Shaft completed ahead of schedule in April 2017,” the company said.  Impala said production from 1 Shaft had been back at steady state from July 2017. The Rustenburg operations were significantly impacted by Section 54 safety stoppages in the first half of the year.  
“Targeted engagement between management, employees and government has resulted in a reduction in stoppages but further reductions in Section 54 stoppages and internal stoppages will only be achieved through relentless pursuit of compliance with safety policies,”  said Muller, who replaced Terence Goodlace in April.  

Mine safety was thrust in the spotlight when five employees died at Harmony Gold as a result of a seismic event last month. There were 73 fatalities in South African mines in 2016 down from 77 in 2015. 

Muller,  who was previously the vice-president for Gold Fields’ South African operations and was the chief operations officer at Royal Bafokeng Platinum, said safety improvement over the past number of years reflected safety leadership that had been applied in the organisation. 

“I think in particular the outgoing chief executive,  was a decisive leader in industry, and he installed a strong safety culture within the company,” he said