Mining safety first, profits second - Zwane | Fin24
 
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Mining safety first, profits second - Zwane

Jan 19 2017 12:15
Lameez Omarjee

Randfontein – Mining companies should prioritise health and safety performance and not place more value on profits over the lives of workers, said Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

The minister was speaking at a press briefing at Harmony Gold in Randfontein on Thursday, where he released the statistics for health and safety performance in the mining industry for 2016.

“If you cannot mine safely, then don’t mine at all,” he said, referring to the accident at Lily Mine in Barberton, where three miners lost their lives.

He added that these statistics were not included in the 2016 data because the issue has not been resolved amid the launch of a formal inquiry.

“We are dealing with the issue and hope we can close this chapter very soon.”

The statistics showed that fatalities had come down 5%, to 73 in 2016. The major contributors to these fatalities were gold mines (30) and platinum mines (27). This was followed by coal mines (5) and other mines such as diamond, chrome, copper and iron ore (12).

The platinum sector, in particular, reported an increase in the number of fatalities by 29%, up from 21 in 2015.

So far this year there have been four fatalities and the most recent was reported on Wednesday, he added.

“We welcome the progress but we are not happy because people are still dying, families are still losing their loved ones and we cannot celebrate that,” said Zwane.

“We cannot rest until we achieve zero harm where a worker can go home every day, unharmed.”

Major contributors to fatalities in the sector include rock falls, transport accidents and general types of accidents such as fires, falling from heights as well as slip and fall accidents.

There has further been a 15% decrease in injuries from 3 138 in 2015 to 2 662 in 2016.

Occupational health diseases decreased by 1%. A high number of occupational diseases are reported, these include TB, silicosis and noise-induced hearing loss.

The number of occupational diseases in the gold sector decreased by 15%, the platinum sector reported an increase by 32%. Coal, diamonds and other mines decreased occupational diseases by 4%, 33% and 8%, respectively.

“The health and safety of mineworkers are of paramount importance for the long term sustainability of the sector,” added Zwane. He said that the sector should not become complacent.

“2016 was challenging for health and safety. The lives of mineworkers cannot be reduced to numbers and statistics… These are family members, breadwinners whose absence has a lasting impact on those they leave behind.”

He added that government was collaborating with stakeholders to improve the health and safety situation by enforcing compliance. 

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