Mining industry employers’ organisation Minerals Council South Africa has remained steadfast in its goal of Zero Harm. However, as of September 23, 2021, 40 fatalities were reported compared with 32 during the same period last year. Along with fall-of-ground incidents, transport and machinery-related challenges, such as rail bound equipment, trackless mobile machinery (TMM), and winches, have contributed to fatalities.
Minerals Council safety and sustainable development head Dr Sizwe Phakathi explains that 2020 had about eight transport-related fatalities with transport incidents primarily associated with rail bound equipment; however, TMM has accounted for four fatalities.
To address these transport-related fatalities, the Minerals Council has focused on a process to align the industry towards an ecosystem readiness for the widespread adoption of a collision prevention system. This is coordinated through a dual strategy of advocacy and investment in the development and implementation of a holistic risk phased action plan, with the aim of “engineering out the risk”, explains Minerals Council mining industry safety and health head Stanford Malatji.
Equipment can be installed with a collision prevention system (CPS), and the technologies are being developed to enable it to automatically slow and stop the machine or vehicle to prevent collisions in a potentially dangerous situation. The technology follows the TMM Regulations, in terms of Chapter 8 of the Mine Health and Safety Act.
“It is an initiative in which we’ve invested in excess of R20-million over the next three years within the Minerals Council; it is supported by our CEOs Zero Harm Forum, as well as our board,” explains Phakathi.
The Minerals Council is also working to establish collaborative relationships with suppliers and original-equipment manufacturers of these technologies. Phakathi notes that, while the relevant regulation is available in South Africa, the South African manufacturing industry also needs to come on board with the development of the CPS technologies.
The Minerals Council’s initiatives, such as the introduction of the aforementioned technology, aim to address not only direct mining objectives but also extend to address other National Development Plan objectives such as job creation, stimulating the manufacturing industry and localisation efforts.
The Minerals Council is working with its members and has engaged the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy Chief Inspector of Mines and organised labour on the progression of its plan to ensure industry implements the CPS technology.
Phakathi also cites that driver behaviour monitoring systems are already assisting companies in understanding drivers’ behaviour, and that the retrieved data can assist companies in advancing corrective measures.
“That data is helping to address potential harmful situations before they become catastrophic events. Companies can start developing training based on that data.”
While the ecosystem for the development of the CPS technology is taking shape, there are short-term, preventive measures that can be taken to mitigate risk. Phakathi explains that mining companies need to begin by conducting objective risk assessments, so that they can adopt appropriate strategies such as traffic management leading practices, to minimise risk associated with vehicle interactions in mining operations.
The Minerals Council has a drive for technology that can modernise mines, as technology is an important part in achieving zero harm. The council’s public-private partnership with the Department of Science and Innovation, the Mandela Mining Precinct, is researching several initiatives aimed at mine modernisation.
The rise of Fourth Industrial Revolution technology is no longer viewed as a threat. Rather, technology can facilitate job creation and preservation, ensure gender inclusion and create safer mining environments that save lives and livelihoods, Phakathi concludes.