Sibanye-Stillwater urges miners to evacuate unsafe mining areas

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SIBANYE-Stillwater has created a new management position to tackle its recent poor safety record, and said it was not aware of a culture of intimidation in which miners were being forced to work in unsafe mining areas.

In an effort to respond to criticism regarding the deaths of 20 employees at its West Rand gold mines since February – which it described as “unacceptable” – the company said it had started a programme which would encourage miners to withdraw from an area if it seemed to be unsafe. This would become “… an integral part of our workplace culture”. It also called on employees to report instances where they were forced to work in unsafe areas.

Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater, described recent deaths at the company as “unacceptable”. Most of the 20 deaths occurred into two incidents, one of which was related to seismic activity. A preliminary report conducted by the company, found that its systems and controls related to seismic activity had not failed.

Pressure is high on Sibanye-Stillwater, however, especially as the Government can resort to  legal measures set down in the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA). Amendments to the act allow, potentially, for prosecution of management in certain instances where a clear line of negligence has been detected and is proved.

Gwede Mantashe, South African mines minister, weighed into the safety debate again on June 18. Whilst addressing media regarding the draft Mining Charter, he mentioned as an aside related to DMR business that: “Mining is not about rocks, it is about people. Once we lose sight of this you have lost the plot. With no human beings, there is no mining.

“We are very worried that of 45 [miners killed in South African mines this year], 20 [miners] are from one company … from Sibanye-Stillwater,” he said. He added that his department would be “… guided by the MHSA in terms of taking action”, saying that the DMR was “… waiting for that report”.

Sibanye-Stillwater said today a report into the seismic activity which claimed seven lives at its Driefonfein mine in May had not yet started.

In addition to the new management position – to be filled by a professor at the University of Witwatersrand Kobus de Jager, who will be Sibanye-Stillwater’s corporate head of safety – the company was also funding an independent study with the the Centre for Sustainability in Mining and Industry “… with the aim of developing practical recommendations for enhancing risk management effectiveness at our operations”.

A memorial service has been scheduled for today to be followed by a day of safety the firm’s mines on June 21. Operations at Ikamva Mine, the location of Sibanye-Stillwater’s most recent fatalities in which five miners were killed, would resume “… once all work places … have been audited to ensure there are no substandard conditions,” it said.

 

12 COMMENTS

  1. Great move, Neal! Can’t wait to see Kobus applying some of that “Mine Call Factor” research to this social/political/behavioural “problem” – good grief!!!😂😂😂

  2. “Mining is not about rocks, it is about people. Once we lose sight of this you have lost the plot. With no human beings, there is no mining.”

    It is into combat that the government must go to prevent these mines from destroying lives by producing a profit. They must take immediate action if the mines so much as breath the word “investment” in the industry.

    Better to spread the profit to the surrounding communities to make things more equitable.

  3. “Destroying lives”, “spread the profit”, “make things more equitable”… talk about “losing the plot”. Seriously, my friend, without mining, there will be no people (cars, homes, schools, agriculture,infrastructure). Life as YOU know and DEPEND on, would not exist! Can you grasp the concept of “BALANCE”? I hope so.. 🙂

  4. Being in the mining fraternity for some fifty years starting as a Le earner miner -where we as miners had to take responsibility for ones safety and that of your mining crew -starts at the waiting place – I believe that we should revert back to the system where no crew member is allowed into the working place unless examined by the MINER and declared safe before allowing persons under his watch to start work -further more shift supervisor-[Shift Boss] must also revert back -where he must inspect each work place in his area of responsibility daily -irrespective whether is was blasted or not.
    Back to Basics -will resolve most of these untenable safety situations – This without having to sign on Professors .
    Your attention is required at the work face – not sitting in some office on surface – The workforce need you there

  5. All Deep level Mining áreas are inherently unsafe. The crews have always had the right to withdraw and refuse to work in any workplace that is deemed to be unsafe. This is enshrined in the Mine Health and Safety act. Anuone in breach of this is guilty of an offence under the act and therefore liable for criminal prosecution.
    I reiterate that Mining below a threshold of 1,600m below Surface, in the vicinity of major faults and dykes known to be seismically unstable, all remnants that are hihly loaded and all shaft pillars should be outlawed.

  6. There are many pro´pects and potential prospects for gold Mining all over the world, most of which can be accessed via safe, open pit Mining methods. This represents a much safer and more profitable investment. Stop development in these mines, harvest the reserves that are left and invest in these prospects. These mines are hardly breaking even. It is not the role of the investor to créate Jobs, we invest to see a decent return on our investment dollar and growth potential, none of which these operations are able to deliver any more. And then to be called callous and murderers? I think not. A please, for the love of all that is decent, do not waste any more investor money in developing robots or any other technology. This type of Mining does not exist anywhere else in the world. Just stop it already…

  7. South Africa still needs to find a “champion” of South African Mining. A culture of ethical leadership, free of arrogance, starting from the top, is required to set the tone for best safety practices at the workplace. And a managers’ office is a workplace.

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