The department of mineral resources confirmed that five mineworkers died in mine accidents while the Mine Health and Safety Summit was in progress. File picture: Reuters

Johannesburg - The department of mineral resources (DMR) confirmed on Friday that five mineworkers died in mine accidents while the two-day Mine Health and Safety Summit was in progress.

In 2018, 74 mineworkers died in mining accidents prompting the department to say that the upward movement seen at the end of 2017 was concerning and requires decisive intervention following a positive decade downward trend in fatalities. 

A mineworker died at Anglo American Platinum Dishaba Mine close to Thabazimbi in Limpopo on Thursday, while the anther mineworker died at AngloGold Ashanti's Kopanang Mine in North West, both from fall of ground. 

The objective of the summit was to review the health and safety performance of the mining sector and to develop strategies to accelerate the achievement of the goal of zero harm. 

The department said it has since dispatched a team of inspectors to the respective sites to commence with in-loco inspections, saying that these accidents were challenging the stakeholders to work with even more urgency in resolving the safety challenges the industry.

"As we move towards the end of the year, it is critical that employers, employees and the department remain extra vigilant. Historical data on mine accidents has revealed that above 27 percent of occupational fatalities reported on an annual basis occur during the last quarter of the calendar year," it said. 

"The increase in fatalities and injuries is mainly attributed to production pressures associated with performance incentives; poor supervision; anxiety of the festive season; lack of focus and complacency. All employers and employees are encouraged to work safely and apply zero tolerance on sub-standard work and conditions."

The department said that its inspectors will also intensify the monitoring and enforcement of the law through inspections and audits during the remaining period of the year while all chief executives of mining companies were called upon to host health and safety days from now until the end of January 2019.

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), said that the death of more mineworkers was a great setback especially while the leaders of labour, business and government were gathered together at the summit

"The Mine Health and Safety Summit seems to be more like a social event, rather than a reflection on learnings from past events and proactively preventing the mines from killing workers.  Mining bosses should invest more of their profits and dividends in safety systems and infrastructure," Mathunjwa said.

"Amcu has repeatedly called for the Mine Health and Safety Act to be amended to provide greater regulation. These calls included amendments to section 23, which allows workers to refuse entering dangerous working areas as well as criminal liability to mining bosses found to be guilty of contravening regulations. It is simply ludicrous that the bosses still get exorbitant bonuses while our workers die."

African News Agency (ANA)