Miners agree urgent measures as fatalities rise in 'dark year-end' in SA

Mining bosses have agreed urgent measures in South Africa designed to halt the unacceptable rise in industry fatalities.

 Image: & Zebra

Image: & Zebra

The Minerals Council South Africa board, comprising 29 mining CEOs, held an urgent meeting on Friday to agree eight short-term measures to adopt and implement immediately to prevent further fatal incidents.

The same day, an employee at Harmony Gold Mining's Kusasalethu mine in the Gauteng province was killed following a winch-related incident.

By December 13, the council said 72 people had died on South Africa's mines, compared with 60 in 2020 and 51 in 2019, the lowest number on record.

"We do not want to be known as the industry where people come to work and die," chair of the council's CEO Zero Harm Forum Themba Mkhwanazi said.

"It's a dark, dark year-end period for everyone in the industry," council president Nolitha Fakude said.

Friday's fatality at Kusasalethu is the seventh reported by Harmony since June 30.

It had reported 11 fatalities in FY21 and had pledged last month to improve its safety performance by 10%

"Safety is a core value at Harmony and remains a priority as we seek to eliminate work related injuries and accidents," CEO Peter Steenkamp said yesterday.

Meanwhile Sibanye-Stillwater was accused of "killing the most workers this year" by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, one of the unions fighting for a bigger wage rise for the company's gold sector workers.

The National Union of Mineworkers said last week it believed drastic action was needed to compel miners to comply with safety standards and procedures and it hoped regulators would hold the industry "fully accountable for its failures".

The council members agreed eight interventions to prevent further fatalities, including increased "visible-felt leadership presence"; stopping unauthorised access to old mining areas; a shift from ad hoc to quality and scheduled maintenance programmes; implementing sufficient fatigue breaks and ensuring incentives did not compromise miners' rights to stop or refuse unsafe work.

They further reiterated their full support to the MineSafe 2021 commitments jointly agreed by stakeholders last month and approved an action plan, including an in-depth analysis of the causes of fatalities. 

They also agreed to conduct phased on-boarding after the Christmas holiday period to ensure employees were in "sound physical and mental health".

The country is entering a fourth wave of COVID-19 infections as the Omicron variant takes hold, with the mining industry's number of active cases jumping from 587 last week to 1,479 on Monday.

The country's president Cyril Ramaphosa tested positive for COVID-19 on Sunday and yesterday his office said he continued to present with mild symptoms.


Chart: Minerals Council South Africa


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