Shabangu: Make CEOs liable for mine deaths

2012-02-07 12:58

Cape Town  - South Africa’s mines minister said on Tuesday that industry chief executives should be held liable for avoidable fatalities, also raising the possibility of court action.

Targeting chief executives would take her safety drive to new levels as the government tries to stem the death toll in the country’s mines, the world’s deepest and among the most dangerous.

“Fatalities which could have been avoided, we feel that CEOs must be held liable for those accidents, because they are responsible for the operations. As they show interest in how they grow the profits they must also show interest in safety,” Susan Shabangu told Reuters in an interview.

Asked if this meant possible court action, she said: “These are some of the issues that we must look at. For me the courts are the last option. But legislation provides for us to go to courts.”

Earlier she told the annual African mining conference in Cape Town that the platinum industry’s contribution to fatalities in the mining sector remained a “serious concern” and defended safety stoppages which she said had contributed to a drop in accident rates.

South Africa’s platinum sector has been battered by oversupply, squeezed margins and an uncertain economic outlook, making producers increasingly vocal about regulatory pressures, particularly the impact of inspections and stoppages as part of the government’s zero-harm target.

“The department has been greatly concerned about lack of improvement in compliance and fatalities in the major platinum mines,” Shabangu said.
“The platinum sector alone contributes about 30% of all fatalities which remains a serious concern.”

The gold sector has also been subject to increased scrutiny and Graham Briggs, chief executive of Harmony Gold Mining Company [JSE:HAR] South Africa’s third largest gold producer, described the government’s campaign on Monday as punitive. Harmony cut its full-year output target by 13% because of the stoppages.

Shabangu said that there was a slight drop in mining fatalities to 123 in 2011 from 127 in 2010 and that 13 miners have been killed so far this year in South Africa.

She also said in her speech that the ANC had reinforced in a key policy document that nationalisation, long feared by the country’s mining industry, was not a viable option.

“I must indicate that we welcome the fact that the report of the ANC task team on nationalisation has reinforced the ANC’s earlier decision that nationalisation is not a viable policy for South Africa,” she said.

Lost production

Anglo American [JSE:AGL] chief executive said its platinum unit had lost 100 000 ounces of production last year because of the blanket nature of safety stoppages, which can seen an entire mine shut because of a problem on a single shaft.

Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS] the world’s largest producer of the precious metal, has already said that safety stoppages at its operations more than doubled to 81 last year as part of an industry-wide drive by the government to reduce the death toll in the country’s mines.

Cynthia Carroll said in a telephone interview with Reuters that the repercussions rippled beyond the direct reason for the stoppages.
“We would say that over 100 000 ounces were lost and it’s not related to the safety issue that was identified. We are going to shut down whole mines and that is the impact,” she said on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba.

“There has been an effort on the part of the CEOs to sit down and have conversations with the mining ministry to talk about the approach that has been taken,” she said.

Amplats produces around 2.6 million ounces of platinum a year and accounts for over a third of global supply of the precious metal.

  • Nigel - 2012-02-07 13:08

    in the same manner govt. officials should be held responsible for things that go wrong in their departments, such as the minister of transport held responsible for road deaths, or the minister of health for patient deaths in badly run hospitals, or the minister of education for millions of uneducated children, so yes CEO's must face up to their responsibilities, but until the ANC govt starts showing that they to can take responsibility for their actions or inactions, its a bit rich for them to start dishing out responsibility guidelines for private business.

      Sean - 2012-02-07 13:12

      You beat me to it Nigel. If Shabangu thinks that is fair then she should do as you suggest. I would like to add crime victims to you list as well.

      Alex - 2012-02-07 13:56

      Nigel, excellent point.

      Allan - 2012-02-07 14:12

      Nigel an excellent post! you however forgot to mention the mininster of enviromental affairs, should he not be liable for shark attacks as well :-)

      Johann - 2012-02-07 16:36

      Exellent comment Nigel ! It raised some good comments all round.

      Klaus - 2012-02-07 16:37

      Nigel, problem is cANCer scum will pay with TAX Payers money, make & hold them responsible in their private and personal capacity, this goes for ALL Government employes !

  • Shirley - 2012-02-07 13:09

    Shabangu: whats your take on miners who dont get their salaries for years whilst the mine owners drive around in fancy cars and live the high life????? I dont hear any comments on that! Is it because they are part of the "family"?

  • dave.leverton - 2012-02-07 13:09

    "Fatalities which could have been avoided, we feel that CEOs must be held liable for those accidents, because they are responsible for the operations." Sure - as soon as Ministers accept responsibility for blue-light accidents and deaths.

  • planetdonovan - 2012-02-07 13:24

    another day, another dumb statement from a politician. how about setting up a commission to regulate mine safety and investigate accidents and fatalities before "holding the ceo responsible".

  • dave.leverton - 2012-02-07 13:37

    A thumbs-down on each comment.... is that you Susan ?

  • colin.dovey - 2012-02-07 13:40

    Has Minister Susan Shabangu EVER worked just ONE shift in an underground Gold or Coal mine? Has she worked where danger lurks around every corner? As a Mine Manager, I spent my entire working life, doing very little else trying to prevent Mining accidents, and ensuring safe working conditions. The CORRECT way is: 1. To have a WELL trained and STRICT Mining Inspectorate, who have done this all, more than adequately in the past. 2. To have Mining Regulations which address SPECIFIC aspects of safety, the manner of mining, and health and safety, and the adherance to this VERY strictly. 3, It is NO GOOD telling us the the CEO must see to very aspects of Safety - the correct person to be addressed is the Mine Manager - who correctly has a LEGAL responsibility to ensure that regulations are adhered to.. The CEO is very often a Financially qualified person, who has to rely on the Mine Manager in any case. This Minister, as is the case with most ANC politicians, does not actually have a clue, and just shutting down working places after an accident is not the correct way to work, and in fact, by leaving places idle, they often become even more dangerous and unstable. That is often because timber support of the "Hanging Wall" (The Roof) must be done all the time, as it will sag and crack. Also, in coal mines, there can be a build-up of Methane gas, which can also be dangerous. There is MUCH more....but the CEO?????

  • Michael - 2012-02-07 13:41

    Let them do it if we can hold the government responsible for farm murders and the current crime wave across the country.Being a CEO of a large corparation is the same responsibilty and a minister,you are responsible for the welfare of all your employees. As we,the tax payer ,the ministers should be held accountable for not running there departments correctly.

  • Mario Barnard - 2012-02-07 13:44

    Thats very interesting. So can we hold the Police minister accountable for every murder he and his effective police force could have prevented?

      Heiku - 2012-02-07 14:36

      Never mind "could have prevented" they kill innocent people themselves all the time.

  • Judith - 2012-02-07 13:49

    And taxis owners liable for taxi deaths which far exceed mine deaths

  • Derek - 2012-02-07 14:12

    And taxi owners no doubt, who are resposible for thousands more deaths than the mines, or are you scared of them. I guess a hard-working, honest, educated mine CEO who believe it or not is very concerned about safety is an easy target for our hopelessly non-accountable government!

  • Allan - 2012-02-07 14:28

    The CEO appoints other people to oversee mine operations , she cannot expect him to do safety checks ever morning . And in this day and age if a court of law can prove that the CEO was negligent in his duties he will be either fined or do a sentence, so whats new Tanie Sue ?

  • appietrader - 2012-02-07 14:29

    The stupidest nonsense, that is not becoming of a government minister, gets send into the mining industrie??? Rather have discussions with the mine managment. This type of nonsense, as if there is not enough crappy regulations and hostile workforce to contend with. The result will lead to disinvestment in this country's mining industry.

  • ian.rundle1 - 2012-02-07 14:59

    Lets make the Government responsible for aids deaths (they defintely contributed to it), hospital fatilities (they contributed to that to), murder (they contribute via incompetent policing), road deaths (there is no law on the roads - government are responsable). They do not have a bloody clue of how stringently mines treat safety.

  • Wayne - 2012-02-07 15:07

    Love the principle of responsibility, but not necessarily the approach being touted. Now lets apply it in all spheres of Government as well.

  • Jymiro - 2012-02-07 16:05

    I seriously don't understand the logic of the argument here. Minister already can be held responsible to action or inaction in the department, something in law called vicarious liability including the taxi owners. Day in day out citizens are holding ministers in court to exercise their rights. There i snothing stopping us a citizens to launch a class action if we feel aggrieved by action or in action of a ministerin a particular department. Lets extend this principle to mine owners and CEO for the avoidable deaths in mines and not only civil action but criminally.

  • Klaus - 2012-02-07 16:42

    Minister of Transport must be held accountable for the mess which is called Taxi Industry. Opposition partys must demand that he answers in Parliament for this tragedy , especially why they are protected as ROYAL GAME

  • Richard - 2012-02-07 18:20

    And the government for deaths from the potholes.

  • guy.mullins1 - 2012-02-09 18:24

    How about making the Minister herself responsible for mine deaths.CEOs will only say it is a "collective" responsibility, or that he never"knew it would be so bad".

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