State defends spate of mining safety stoppages

DMR minister Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane sees mining safety stoppages as enforcing a priority.
DMR minister Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane sees mining safety stoppages as enforcing a priority.

SA Mineral Resources minister Mosebenzi Zwane defended mining safety stoppages after complaints of production losses by some employers.

The minister said the health of workers should take priority over profit. Anglo Gold Ashanti and Anglo American Platinum have lost some production to the Department of Mineral Resources’ use of section 54 provisions in the Mine Health and Safety Act, reported Bloomberg.

These notices stop operations during incident investigations. The spate of stoppages, and complaints, and requests to close and inspect only the areas where accidents had occurred, had two sequels in recent years (see earlier reports on Sheqafrica.com).

Anglo Gold CEO Srinivasan Venkatakrishnan complained of an entire mine being shut down by a safety stoppage. Amplats CEO Chris Griffith made similar comments last month.

“Certain mining companies have leveled very serious allegations against the minister (of Mineral Resources) and his officials, intimating that the officials may be using the instruments available to further its own purposes,” the DMR said in a statement in August.

The department was “aware of the global economic realities facing commodity producers, but safety is non-negotiable”, said the DMR.

Mining companies can appeal against section 54 notices, yet the minister had not received any formal appeals.

“It is appalling behavior by some responsible corporate citizenry of South Africa’s mining industry, to be seemingly filing such appeals in… public opinion.”

By 18 August, there were 57 fatalities in South African mines for the year, compared to 46 in the same period last year, said the union NUM.

Table from SP Pearton; The application of pumpable emulsions in narrow-reef stoping. Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, vol.115 n6, June 2015. Platinum Conference papers.
Table from SP Pearton; The application of pumpable emulsions in narrow-reef stoping. Journal of the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, vol.115 n6, June 2015. Platinum Conference papers.

 

Mining deaths statistics

The DMR had noted earlier that in 2015, 77 miners died at work, a record low, and a fraction of the annual average of about 800 deaths per year in the two decades to 1994.

Anglo Gold, the world’s third-biggest gold miner, had three fatalities and 77 safety stoppages in the first half of the year, losing 44,000 ounces of production. Amplats lost about 30,000 ounces of platinum group metals.

Some employers do not complain against mining safety stoppages. Peter Steenkamp, CEO of Harmony Gold, said they have not had any unjustified section 54 stoppages.

Sibanye Gold CE Neal Froneman said last month that the DMR was destroying hundreds of millions, if not billions of rand in value, because of unnecessary safety stoppages, reported Reuters.

Sibanye has said it lost R135-m in revenue in the 12 months to June at Kroondal platinum mine due to government safety stops.

  • Sources; Bloomberg. Reuters. SAIMM Journal.
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One thought on “State defends spate of mining safety stoppages

  1. I fully agree that the DMR inspectors are using a Section 54 much too easily, where a Section 55 would have been in order.
    Here are findings from one of their section 54’s issued to a mine:
    “-WED smoking in the winder room (smell of cigarette and ash found)
    “-Medication (Eucalyptus oil) was found and no responsible person for the medication
    “-Section 23 posted with an incorrect wording /spelling”.

    So next someone will be guilty of picking his/her nose in the wrong place, and the mine stopped for that?? These “inspectors” are seriously damaging our economy, and with current affairs as it is, mines will close.

    Another finding and another section 54 stoppage: “Safety harness found lying on the ground in the dirt. -Remedy: Re-train all employees on the use of a safety harness”.

    So then everyone from top to bottom, except the guilty employee, gets suspended. Let’s put the blame on John or Paul who has been trained BUT has an attitude or behavior problem.

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