Harmony Gold “deeply concerned” as fatalities into double figures following Doornkop incident

MINING fatalities moved into double figures at Harmony Gold this calendar year after the South African gold producer reported the death of a miner at its Doornkop operation, west of Johannesburg.

“We are deeply concerned about the unfortunate incidents at our mines,” said Peter Steenkamp, CEO of Harmony Gold in a statement to the JSE. He committed to improving its safety record through a “safety humanistic transformation initiative”.

Of the 10 reported fatalities at Harmony Gold operations, the majority have been ‘falls of ground’ related to seismic activity. Previous incidents occurred at its Kusasalethu, Mponeng, Target, Tshepong South (Phakisa), Bambanani and Target mines.

The Minerals Council South Africa said last month that the mining sector was heading for a second successive increase in mining fatalities this year.

As of end-October, the number of fatalities at the country’s mines stood at 55 compared to 43 at the same time last year. “This is the second year of regression in the safety performance since the 2019 record low of 51 fatalities,” the council said in a statement.

“We are seriously concerned about this regression in safety,” said Themba Mkhwanazi, chair of the CEO Zero Harm Leadership Forum. “With the regression we are experiencing, we need to put a lot more focus on technology and modernisation to improve skills and mining methods to keep employees safe.”

A MineSafe summit supported by Government’s Department of Mineral Resources and Energy and organised labour, along with the council, has been organised for this month.

The gold sector has recorded the highest number of fatalities with 23 followed by the platinum sector with 14 fatalities compared to the previous year, said the council. The leading cause of fatalities remains fall of ground.

“The disruptions to the work environment caused by the Covid-19 pandemic are a factor in the regression,” said the council.

Absenteeism and changes to front-line underground mining teams unsettling work patterns and flows since the start of the pandemic in early 2020 have been one of the causes in the setbacks in the mining industry’s safety performance, it said.

“The last quarter of the year is normally a time when higher vigilance is needed so the urgency of holding the summit and addressing the regression in safety and agreeing solutions cannot be understated,” said Mkhwanazi.


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