SA mining heading for a second successive regression in fatalities led by falls of ground

FATALITIES in South Africa’s mining sector were heading for a second successive increase, according to data today published by the country’s Minerals Council.

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 November.

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 falls of ground (FoG).

There were 60 fatalities in the full year of 2020, over 20 of which were caused by FoG. General types of accidents were the second-largest cause of fatalities, with transport-related incidents third, the council said.

“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.