Mine health and safety focus on disease, women, refuge bays

The South African Mineral Resources (DMR) budget includes several mine health and safety measures for the 2015-2016 financial year.

DMR minister Adv Ngoako Abel Ramatlhodi told parliament “We will continue working tirelessly to ensure that the goal of zero harm on mineworkers is ultimately achieved, through intensifying monitoring and enforcement measures.

“This has resulted in improved health and safety of the workers at the mines. In this regard, there has been a reduction of about 86% in fatalities reported by the mines since the dawn of democracy, from 615 in 1993, to 84 in 2014.

“In fact 2014 was the safest year ever for the mining sector with the lowest fatalities of 84 recorded; 2015 up to 31 March, figures show that there has been a 41% reduction in fatalities when compared to the similar period during 2014.

“I remain concerned about the number of deaths in the mining sector as a result of occupational diseases which include Pulmonary TB, silicosis and Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.

“I call upon the industry to place greater emphasis on these matters. In this regard, the Mine Health and Safety Council will continue to monitor the situation to ensure that the November 2014 Mine Health and Safety Tripartite Summit commitments and action plan are implemented.

“The Department also continues to be greatly concerned about the health and safety of women workers including the inhumane treatment by fellow workers in some of the mines.

“We will continue to take appropriate measures to ensure that women have a safe and dignified working environment. The Department has through the Mine Health and Safety Council conducted research on security matters involving women in mining and based on the outcomes, a guideline and awareness materials will be developed to assist the industry on how this matter should be handled.

Interior of a refuge bay during underground emergency response training (Photo: Stata Worldwide).
Interior of a refuge bay during underground emergency response training (Photo: Stata Worldwide).

“Also, the regulations on refuge bays which require all underground mines to have life sustaining chambers have recently been gazetted. The use of these bays has also assisted in the rescue of about 486 mineworkers during a recent fire accident at one of the gold mines.”

A budget of R1.618-b has been allocated to the Department of Mineral Resources for the current financial year. Total industry employment dropped to 493 000, from 508 000 in the same period last year.

Commemoration of deceased mineworkers
“Tthe National Union of Mineworkers has brought to our attention a grave site in the Evander area in the Mpumalanga province, where about a thousand mineworkers were buried during the apartheid era, and whose names and origins are unknown.

“The Department will collaborate with other stakeholders to ensure that decent monuments are erected for them.

Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill
The Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill is being processed through NEDLAC, and will then go to cabinet and parliament.

SA state still to start mining
“I have also re-prioritised the Bill on the State-Owned Mining company (SOMCO), for referral to cabinet and parliament during the current financial year.

“To ensure policy clarity on coal, I have directed that urgent work commence on the development of a coal policy framework.

“Operation Mining Phakisa (Hurry Up) would be convened to deliver fast and implementable results to the country’s development priorities.

“It is our intention to focus the Phakisa on, inter alia, mineral beneficiation… and a programme of action to mitigate binding constraints including infrastructure as well as research and development, and to channel the output of this stakeholder process as the basis to review the Mining Strategy.

Mining licences streamlined
“The process of reorganizing the Department has started in earnest. This is intended to ensure an efficient, and development oriented department.

“Further, we launched an upgrade version of the online licencing system, SAMRAD, in February. This enhancement has achieved, among other things the elimination of the human factor in the processing of licences.

“All applications are lodged in line with the new system. An Enforcement and Compliance Unit has been established in the Department to ensure successful implementation of the integrated licensing system.

Mining skills development
“We have prioritized the training of senior and middle managers through various programmes, with reputable institutions such as Wits Business School and the University of Pretoria.

“The Department is collaborating with the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) and other stakeholders through the Mining Qualification Authority (MQA) to ensure that the skills programmes continuously respond to the changing mining landscape by improving on the skills of mining communities and labour sending areas.

“The MQA regional offices are now operational in rural Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges in the Northern Cape, Free State, Mpumalanga, North West, Limpopo and Eastern Cape.

“The MQA skills development programmes include Adult Education and Training (AET), maths and science, bursaries in engineering subjects, artisan training and jewellery making.”

• See a post on the MQA /QCTO Occupational Health and Safety Practitioner curriculum standard, on Sheqafrica.com
* See a post on mining towns social aid and Operation Phakisa on Sheqafrica

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