Pictures: Russell Roberts

The South African Chamber of Mines has expressed concern at the deterioration in safety performance in the mining industry during 2017, and called on mine CEO’s to intensify the industry focus to falls of ground incidents.

The chamber said in a statement that it was deeply disturbed and disappointed particularly at the number of accidents related to seismic activity and the subsequent fall of ground incidents recorded over the past several weeks.

“Fatal accidents last week raised the number of fatalities in 2017 to 76, above the 73 reported in 2016,” said the chamber. “This is particularly disappointing given the consistent improvement the industry has seen over the past two decades.”

According to the Chamber, between 1993 and 2016, the number of fatalities in the industry declined by 88%. The chamber said, fall of ground incidents declined by 92% over the same period.

“Fall of ground incidents, particularly at deep level mines is an area that joint industry efforts have focused on most intensively in the past several years. This is reflected in the more than R150 million that the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) has invested in falls of ground research, recognising that South Africa operates the deepest mines in the world.”

In early January 2017, Minister Mosebenzi Zwane released the health and safety statistics for the industry at a press briefing at Harmony Gold. The statistics showed that fatalities had come down from 77 in 2015 to 73 in 2016. The major contributors to these fatalities were gold mines (30) and platinum mines (27), followed by coal mines (5) and other mines such as diamond, chrome, copper and iron ore (12).

At another event held in Secunda the Department of Mineral Resources Chief inspector of mines, Mthokozisi Zondi told delegates attending the Sacma 2017 CoalSafe conference, that more had to be done in the industry to ensure the safety of miners and their health.

Zondi said this included reducing the number of employees exposed to pollutants and noise.

Zondi noted a 3% year-0n-year increase in the number of fatalities recorded between 1 January and 6 March in 2017 compared to the same period in 2016, and called on the industry to make the necessary changes to drastically reduce the figures. The South African Colliery Management Association (Sacma) President, Kevin Mattison also called upon the industry to take the necessary steps to realise the mining industry’s goal of zero harm.

In 2016, there were 2662 reported injuries, down 15% from 3138 in 2015.