TSHWANE (miningweekly.com) – The 84 mine fatalities recorded in 2014 were the lowest ever in South African mining history, Mineral Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi revealed during a media briefing in Tshwane on Friday.
Mineworker fatalities were down 10% from the 93 deaths reported in 2013.
Ramatlhodi said the number of fatalities reported by platinum mines had decreased by 44%, from 27 in 2013, to 15 in the year under review, while fatalities in the diamond-, chrome-, copper- and iron-ore mining sectors fell by 27% year-on-year, from 22 to 16.
“The number of fatalities reported by gold mines during 2014 regrettably increased by 23%, from 37 to 44, while fatalities at coal mines increased by 29%, from 7 to 9,” he lamented.
The Minister added that the coal and platinum sectors were, nonetheless, comparing favourably with the respective best-performing sectors in other countries, such as the US and Canada, in terms of the fatality rates per million hours worked.
“The month of December has traditionally been the worst month in terms of the number of fatalities at our mines. However, last year, the industry only recorded two casualties, which were the lowest number of fatalities ever recorded during the month, which marked a drastic improvement from previous years,” he noted.
It was also highlighted that a number of mining companies had gone for more than 12 months without fatalities.
These included Northam Platinum, De Beers, BHP Billiton, Anglo Thermal Coal, Total Coal South Africa, Kuyasa Mining, Glencore’s coal operations, Coal of Africa, Eskom, Ingula Pumped Storage, Lafarge, PPC, AfriSam, Alexkor, Petra Diamonds and Trans Hex Mining.
Ramatlhodi made special mention of Lonmin, noting that, while the company’s mines had not been operational for five months during last year’s strike, it had also gone for more than 12 months without recording a mining related fatality.
Major causes of fatalities – in descending order – were general classification types of fatalities (35%), falls of ground (30%) and transportation fatalities (17%).
“General classification types of accidents included inhaling dangerous fumes, being struck by an object and falling from heights,” he explained.
Ramatlhodi also pointed out that fall-of-ground accidents had historically
been the leading cause of death at local mines.
“However, the general accidents are now the main cause of fatalities and there had been a 22% reduction in the number of actual fall-of-ground fatalities, from 32 in 2013, to 25 in 2014,” he stated, adding that the mining sector had recorded a 55% reduction in the number of transportation-related fatalities, from 31 in 2013, to 14 in 2014.
In conclusion, the Minister emphasised that his department would continue to work with industry players to ensure that every mineworker ultimately returned from work, unharmed, every day.