The mining industry does not knowingly and willingly send people into mines to die, Chamber of Mines outgoing president Lazarus Zim said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the chamber’s annual general meeting, Zim said the mining sector shares the concerns of the government, labour and the public about the escalating accident and fatality rate at South African mines.
“The chamber and its members are acutely aware that government, not only at the level of the minister and the Department of Minerals and Energy, but also the president, are becoming increasingly uneasy about surface and underground incidents that cause injuries and loss of life,” said Zim.
While there is no one single party that can solve the rising safety-risk issue by itself, the chamber said its members acknowledge that they have to improve delivery on safety commitments. “They understand that failure to do so will inevitably damage the industry’s reputation in the eyes of key stakeholders,” said Zim.
Four years ago, mining-industry executives committed themselves to achieving a workplace target of zero fatalities and zero injuries.
And while this appeared to have some impact over the year that followed, with the fatality rate reduced by 12% in 2004 and by a further 16% in 2005, the rate was flat in 2006 when 199 miners lost their lives — and judging by the fatalities and accidents reported this year to date, 2007 does not look any better.
According to statistics from the Mine Health and Safety Council, there were 213 deaths at all South African mines in the 12 months to the end of July, compared with 197 in the corresponding period a year ago, when almost 11 000 fewer miners were employed.
Using the fact that the South African mining industry achieved total mineral sales of R195,6-billion in 2006, one could say a life is taken for roughly every R1-billion-worth of sales.
In production terms, South Africa’s gold producers produced a total of 242 527kg or 242,5 metric tonnes of fine gold in 2006, while their mines claimed 113 lives. That means a life is taken for every two tonnes of gold produced. — I-Net Bridge