Profits Killing Miners?

South Africa. With 13 workers dying this month alone, it appears that mine bosses are only paying lip service to mine safety as they hunt profits.

Mining bosses, including Anglo American’s Cynthia Carroll and Gold Fields chief executive Nick Holland, have said that fatalities will not be tolerated, but their mines are among the most dangerous in the industry.

The country’s mines have claimed 129 lives since the start of the year.

What the mines say:

Gold Fields has the highest number of deaths – with the biggest single-day fatalities being recorded on May 1 when a lift cable snapped, sending nine miners plunging to their deaths.

Its chief executive, Nick Holland, said at the time: "If we cannot mine safely, we must not mine. There is no price for life."

Since making that statement 15 mineworkers have died at Gold Fields – bringing its total fatalities to 24.

Gold Fields continues to mine.

Willie Jacobsz, a spokesman for Gold Fields, said: "[Since the May 1 disaster] Gold Fields, under the leadership of Nick Holland, has adopted a zero harm policy to totally eliminate all fatal accidents.

" Because of this we will, by the end of this year, have lost close to 4000kg of gold production. In the current financial year which started on July 1, we have had only one fatality. But that is not yet good enough."

Harmony Gold has reported the second-highest number of fatalities, with 17 death since the beginning of the year.

At the company’s June-quarter and 2008 financial year-end results presentation, chief executive Graham Briggs said: "Management remains committed to zero fatalities and every effort is being made to achieve this objective.

"Safety is a priority among all operational teams and many hours are being dedicated to Safety leadership and awareness."

On Friday, Briggs said: "Seventeen is certainly not a good number, but we are currently rolling out initiatives aimed at improving Safety and we have our own audit system. Above all we are also committed to the Safety programmes initiated by the Chamber of Mines."

In August last year Cynthia Carroll, chief executive of Anglo American, said of safety records at the group’s platinum operations: "We have had Safety issues and our performance has been unacceptable."

Twelve people died in Anglo Platinum’s mines by June last year, and by the end of the year a total of 25 people had been killed.

The dismal record was attributed to the abrupt resignation of the company’s chief executive Ralph Havenstein in August last year.

In January, when Neville Nicolau, former chief operations officer of AngloGold Ashanti, took over from Havenstein as the platinum miner’s new chief executive, he said: "It is important to get Safety sorted out; it is the moral license to mine. You earn it by implementing Safety management as a priority."

The company has reported 14 fatalities since the beginning of the year – the third highest in the industry.

Source: The Times
By: Kea’ Modimoeng
Published: 22 September 2008

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