South Africa calls in mining safety experts to help reduce fatalities
South Africa’s Department of Minerals and Energy is dismayed with Aquarius statements that it has passed presidential safety audit.
Posted: Friday , 11 Jan 2008
The South African department of minerals and energy (DME) and the SA Chamber of Mines may be calling in top mine safety experts in a bid to address rising mine deaths in the country.
The major trade union NUM told Mineweb Thursday that mine worker deaths totaled 221 in 2007 - an alleged 11% increase on the death toll of 201 in 2006.
Stakeholders in mining safety have suggested that international safety expert Jay Greenspan from Washington, D.C. and Professor May Hermanus, former chief inspector of mines, be recruited to assist the parties in making mining in the country safer. Chamber of Mines Safety and Sustainable Mining Advisor, Sietse van der Woude, said Friday that the suggestion to bring in the experts has been made but no final agreement had been reached yet.
He said the Chamber, the DME and labour would meet this month to discuss how safety could be addressed in 2008.
The department's presidential mine safety audit would take most of the year and comprised of both legal and technical inspections. Van der Woude did not foresee the audit having a big impact on companies' production and performance in 2008, as those who did not comply with standards would be given a period to address areas of concern.
The department had undertaken to practice "good regulatory, progressive enforcement" that included considering the track record of a transgressing company. Its enforcement policy which allowed it to close mines that posed safety risks was to be reviewed.
Van der Woude said the biggest safety risks in mining were falls of ground which occurred with rock falls and seismic activity and machine and road accidents similar to incidents in other industries or above ground.
The 2003 agreement to reduce mine deaths in the country by 20% every year was in place until 2015, but would be reviewed in 2009. Van der Woude said this target was reached in 2005, but not in 2006 and 2007.
AQUARIS SAFETY AUDITS
Meanwhile, the NUM and department have protested against platinum miner Aquarius' claims that its Marikana and Everest mines have passed presidential safety audits.
In a statement, the DME said that it was highly dismayed by Aquarius' announcement that it has received a clean bill of health from the department. "Although the DME has started its legal audits at a few South African mines, it has not yet released any reports on findings at these mines," it said. "The audit conducted at Marikana could not be completed as DME officials were informed that all staff ‘had been fired' as a result of illegal strike action."
NUM national spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said the false statements were a reflection of how "playful" the industry was when dealing with the lives of ordinary people.