South Africa Experiences Increase In Mining Incidents

The Mineral Council South Africa reviews health and safety figures and discusses the origins of the rise in mining fatalities

The latest mining health and safety records have come to the attention of the Minerals Council South Africa as it reported 60 fatalities in the industry in 2020. This marks an increase from 2019, with around 51 fatalities in that year. Records also show that in this year to date, 32 fatalities have occurred, whereas, in the same period last year, there were 24. 

Has Covid-19 Affected Mining Safety?

The council President, Nolitha Fakude, spoke at the virtual National Day of Heath and Safety in Mining 2021, where she explained that due to physical and mental strain - primarily a result of Covid-19 - healthy and safety numbers were regressing. “In 2020, we, unfortunately, saw a deterioration in mining safety performance in terms of fatalities. Furthermore, thus far, in 2021, we are seeing a worsening of the fatality trend. This is not acceptable to us, the Minerals Council and our members,” says Fakude.

As a result of the increased pressures on mining to meet environmental, social and governance (ESG) standards, the council has adopted a holistic strategy called Khumbul’ekhaya to deal with the increasing health and safety incidents. 

Themba Mkhwanazi, Chairperson of the CEO Zero Harm Forum, says the industry health and safety has regressed, despite the shutting down of operations during the pandemic. “This regression was in all commodities, except platinum, which has shown improvements,” Mkhwanazi says. Mkhwanazi also said the gold mining sector had been affected the most with 15 fatalities - platinum had seven fatalities, and commodities had five.

Illegal Activity In Mining

Illegal mining activity has posed a challenge for the mining industry, in particular illegal mine dumps and operations. David Msiza, Chief Mining Inspector, expresses concerns over illegal incidents and how they affect health and safety. “We are seeing more violence associated with these criminal activities and the use of guns,” says Msiza. “Hence, the minister has engaged with his counterpart Minister Bheki Cele to ensure there is a special task force to look at these things.” Msiza also explains the department was small and legitimate mining while ensuring that unused shafts were closed. 

“If we do not deal with the market, in other words, where this gold is going, we will still struggle. [...] We have approached the UN, and we are working with Interpol to ensure that, ultimately, we eradicate this challenge,” Msiza says.

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