Factors behind latest spate of fatalities is hardest nut of all for Minerals Council to crack

THE deterioration in safety performance on South Africa’s mines in the second half of the year must be particularly concerning to the Minerals Council.

That’s because causation is being linked to murkier, more difficult to address factors such as crime and economic pressures. Behaviour in respect of technical protocols is one thing, but behaviour as a phenomenon of broad societal ills seems a different challenge altogether.

So while fatalities related to falls of ground and trackless mobile machinery have been reduced in the past year, fatalities linked to things like a general disregard for regulations in society in general and sickness (Covid-19) require a quite different mindset.

There were eight fatalities on South African mines in August, taking the year-to-date total to 36 – the same as last year. In other words, there is no room for error if the sector is to merely match 2021’s performance in 2022.

The Minerals Council called it a “red flag” which is why it convened a special board meeting, the outcome of which was to recommit to some basic safety and behavioural standards, including a redoubling of visible campaigns on the mine.

Those initiatives will surely have an impact but as the mining industry is all too aware social disintegration is reaching into all areas of its existence; is even becoming existential to some extent.

South Africa’s problems are too big for the mining industry to contain. Everyone knows what’s required: a turnaround in economic fortunes. But as the worst of loadshedding to hit South Africa has demonstrated, the country’s mining communities are unlikely to see an improvement in their fortunes this year, or the next.