Work-related deaths in South Afric…


A mine employee makes use of a drill on the rock face as he works deep underground. (Photograph: Nadine Hutton / Bloomberg by way of Getty Pictures Information)

By 5 July, South Africa’s mining sector had recorded 32 deaths to this point in 2021, in contrast with 24 in the identical interval final 12 months. Regardless of the spike, the general development stays in the suitable route.

South Africa’s mining business has made strides on the well being and security entrance, however the noble aim of “zero hurt” stays elusive — and that could be the case till it’s only robots that go underground. 

In line with information compiled by business physique the Minerals Council South Africa, 309 miners have been killed on the job in 1999. That’s about one a day, if Sundays are excluded. 

By 2019, the physique rely had been slashed to 51, a file low over the previous century of the industrial-scale mining which constructed Africa’s most superior economic system whereas entrenching racial disparities in wealth and earnings that persist to today. 

A variety of things have been behind these enhancements, together with stress from regulators, unions and buyers, with the latter more and more involved about ESGs — environmental, social and governance points. Mechanisation, the place the geology has allowed, has performed a task, together with the rollout of security nets and different initiatives in typical settings. 

However worryingly, the toll rose to 60 in 2020, a 12 months by which fewer work hours have been logged within the sector due to lockdown restrictions.

In 2021 up to now, 32 miners have misplaced their lives on the job in South Africa, a 33% improve on the identical interval final 12 months, the Minerals Council revealed on Thursday throughout a media briefing to mark its annual Nationwide Day of Well being and Security.  

“We noticed in 2020 a deterioration in mining’s security efficiency by way of fatalities. Worse nonetheless, to date in 2021, we’re seeing an additional deterioration within the fatality development. This isn’t acceptable to us, because the Minerals Council and the business,” mentioned Minerals Council president Nolitha Fakude. 

“Falls of floor” and “rock bursts” mixed accounted for 11 deaths this 12 months, the identical quantity recorded in the identical interval in 2020, which stays a significant reason behind concern. 

The Minerals Council final 12 months mandated its Rock Engineering Technical Committee (RETC) to develop an motion plan to eradicate such fatalities, generally known as FOGs (fall of floor). 

Challenges embrace an exodus of skilled rock engineers from South Africa, with most of these remaining reaching retirement age.  

The committee’s suggestions embrace spending R40-million on R&D over 5 years in areas resembling seismicity and the real-time monitoring of indicators of instability or stress in rock formations. Expertise improvement to fill the rock engineering hole, selling adjustments in dangerous behaviour and revising bolt netting strategies are among the many different suggestions. 

The business can definitely afford to spend some cash on this situation as the present commodities increase flows to the underside line of many corporations, massively boosting their income. And total, issues are a far cry from the apartheid and colonial eras, when the lives of grotesquely exploited black miners hardly registered within the boardroom. DM/BM/MC

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