The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy has announced a 37% fall in mine deaths as safety improves. 51 fatalities were reported in 2019, compared to 81 in 2018.

The Department’s Chief Mine Safety Inspector, David Msiza, says the industry achieved this because the parties involved worked together.

“We’ve clearly indicated that, generally, the occupational diseases have been significantly coming down; more specifically with the pulmonary TB cases. We’ve actually seen silicosis cases numbers coming down, noise-induced hearing loss numbers coming down as well and we are saying that it is as a result of an effort; in other words, tripartite efforts by the state, organised labour and business, that we see the trends coming down.”

Also read | Mineral Resources dept must ensure adherence to safety standards
The country’s two biggest mining unions, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM,) say the Mineral Resources department needs to ensure total adherence to health and safety standards.

 

Although labour unions have welcomed the reduction in fatalities for 2019, they have also raised concerns. The National Union of Mineworkers’ Secretary, Sipho Mungwe, says the union will be working with the tripartite alliance to improve the health and safety of workers.

“One of the concerns is that once the mineworker has been incapacitated due to health and safety, the companies remove themselves from the responsibility to take care of such workers. The compensation system takes over. However, there is still a need to support these employees hence NUM will continue to work together with the tripartite in improving the mine health and safety of our workers.”

Joseph Mathunjwa of the Association of Mine and Construction Workers Union has called on mining companies to respect employees.

“We acknowledge the improvement, but we believe and trust that we can do better. If you look at the preamble of the constitution, it says respect those who have worked and built and developed this country. To respect is to admire; it’s about admiration. If the companies don’t admire their employees, surely we will keep on looking at these stats. We will be looking at people dying every day.”

South Africa’s mines are among the world’s deepest and least mechanised. One of the main causes of fatalities is ground falling. Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe outlined how they were improving safety in this area.

 

“But one of the most important area in which I think we have improved is repeat seismic because what happens is that seismic happens in an area and there is no fatality, we ignore it and it repeats itself and that’s why we get fatalities in the secondary seismic event. I think the industry begins to know that when there is a seismic, they pull workers out of the workplace and observe what the behaviour will be. The more we do that, the better the industry will be, the more we can achieve day zero harm and a  zero fatality industry.”

LISTEN TO DAVID MSIZA’S INTERVIEW ON SAFM’S THE FOCAL POINT BELOW: