As mines get deeper, more miners die

Almost two-thirds of accident fatalities on South African mines last year occurred on gold mines, says the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate (MHSI).

In its annual report for the year ended March 31, tabled at Parliament, the mining watchdog said there were a total of 298 fatalities in the industry, of which 192 (65%) happened on gold mines.

”The high labour intensity and geology of our gold mines result in these mines having high accident rates, and hence fatalities, when compared to coal mines, platinum group metals mines and other


Rock falls still remained the major cause of death,

accounting for 121 of the 298 mine fatalities, the report states.

The report says the gold mining industry ”remains the main contributor to mining-related accidents”.

”And as mining continues to go deeper… rockbursts are bound to affect the severity of accidents, and often cause serious production losses.

”Many workplaces are located more than 3 000 metres below surface.” The MHSI says that with the increase in the price of gold and the devaluation of the rand, mining houses are increasingly looking at reserves that until now were not considered economically viable.

This included pillars left in place due to high extraction costs.

”Pillars are notorious for posing higher risks associated with extraction.

High fractured roofs, high rock stresses and the problems associated with coursing ventilation for long distances through mined-out areas are but a few,” the report says.

The latest fatality figures for the gold mining industry mark an increase over the previous year (2000), when 173 workers were killed.

During the period covered by the report, there were 50

fatalities on platinum mines and 17 on coal mines.

The MHSI notes that fatality rates in South Africa’s coal sector have, for the first time ever, ”reached levels comparable to Australia and North America”.

”This is an achievement to be proud of and we must not be complacent.” There are 1 345 mines in South Africa, of which 775 are registered operating mines.

Fatal accident in 2001 occurred at 26% of them. – Sapa

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Richard Davies
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