‘Mining sector must be proactive in dealing with fatalities’

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The mining sector must be proactive in dealing with fatalities to help avert further accidents in the mining sector. That’s the word from delegates who attended the mine safety, health and environment awards conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

The awards aim to recognize mining companies that have contributed meaningfully to mining safety. This year’s event coincides with a fatal mining accident at Impala Platinum this week that claimed the lives of 12 mineworkers, with more than 70 injured.

Government, labour and business initiated these awards to recognize mining companies championing the mining health, environmental conditions and safety requirements. But delegates here have acknowledged that a lot still needs to be done to reduce the country’s mining fatalities.

Mining accidents have so far claimed the lives of 53 workers this year, compared to 49 last year. Harmony Gold has been recognized as the best in class for the Gold category and the company believes that the level of fatalities in the mines has reduced.

“If you look 20 years ago, the industry was sitting at about 270 loss of lives. That’s when we started talking about how to improve from 270 to 49 last year is a significant improvement,” says Stuart Sepetla, Safety Executive: Harmony Gold.

The event also focused on upskilling the workforce to help prevent fatalities. Many say efforts must go towards preventing accidents instead of taking action only after a fatal accident.

“And that’s what they do and that’s why this conference is recognizing those companies in different categories of occupational health and safety on how best they have performed,” says Dr Thabo Mashongoane, CEO: Mining Qualifications SETA.

Delegates agree that some mining incidents could’ve been avoided and that the miners have a right to say no if they are being pressured to work in an unsafe environment.