Johannesburg - Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu
said on Thursday that her department would be increasing health and safety audits of mines in the face of a “culture of non-compliance”, and slammed the industry again for putting profits ahead of safety.
“My department is currently reviewing the Mine Health and Safety Act to strengthen enforcement,” Shabangu told a mine health and safety summit.
“This is in direct response to the outcome of inspections and audits that have been conducted by our inspectors which highlight a worrying culture of non-compliance with minimum standards.”
Shabangu said “heightened” health and safety standards would take place over the Christmas holiday period and the first half of next year.
She said 112 workers had been killed in the country’s mines so far in 2011, but gave no comparative figure for the same period last year.
In August Shabangu described the mounting death toll in the country’s lethal mines and said there was a link between the pursuit of profits and the body count.
Shabangu said “when profits go higher fatalities go high” and called for “better salaries instead of better bonuses”.
Most of the country’s main mining houses say safety is a top priority and mining deaths have fallen dramatically over the past couple of decades, though the industry’s labour force has also shrunk.
But there have been worrying signs that this trend could be reversing. South Africa’s mines are among the most dangerous anywhere, not least because they are the deepest in the world.
Health issues are also a major concern in South African mines.
A lawyer for hundreds of former South African gold miners accused their ex-employers on Wednesday of failing to provide access to regular check-ups for silicosis, an incurable lung disease caused by inhaling dust.