Minister, unions visit AngloGold Ashanti mine on safety concerns

25th July 2007 By: Nelendhre Moodley

Most of AngloGold Ashanti’s Moab Khotsong mine, near Orkney, has been reopened following a seismic event, which led to two fatalities over the weekend.

On Wednesday, a delegation consisting of the Minister of Minerals and Energy Buyelwa Sonjica, AngloGold Ashanti South African CE Neville Nicolau, union leaders, department officials and AngloGold Ashanti management visited the mine.

The Department of Minerals and Energy on Saturday asked AngloGold Ashanti to close the mine, most of which had been reopened on Wednesday after the miner had met all the conditions stipulated by the Department, DME chief director of communications Bontle Mafuna said in a telephone interview from the mine on Thursday.

However, she stressed that the area in which the miners had perished was still closed and that AngloGold Ashanti had still to meet all the criteria before it opened up the area.

Speaking at the Moab Khotsong mine, Sonjica highlighted the government’s concern that fatalities at mines were not reducing and that it was far from reaching its target of 20% year-on-year fatality reduction.

She also raised concerns that as the biggest mining operator in the world, South Africa was not doing more research on techniques and equipment to detect seismic events.

Speaking from the mine, DME chief inspector of mines Thabo Gazi said that R40-million was being spent on health and safety at mines annually by the Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee.

He added, however, that mines were nowhere near the fatality reduction target of a 20% year-on-year.

In fact, in 2006, the fatality rate was unchanged from 2005.

“There was no improvement in 2006, it was the same as the previous year.”

This year showed no improvement in fatality rate so far.

“The DME will be launching an investigation into the incident to determine what happened and whether it could have been prevented,” Mafuna said.

This latest incident, which occurred early on Friday morning, has taken the number of people killed in South African gold mines this year to more than 50.

Three miners were loading at the development end of the mine when the seiscmic event, of 0,7 in magnitude, caused a rockfall trapping the workers underground.

One person escaped with minor injuries.

The Mine Health and Safety Council will also be holding a mini indaba on rockbursts and seismicity, in September, where, together with the industry and labour, it would be interrogating ways in which to decrease seismicity-related accidents on our mines.

South Africa's mining industry has not been able to achieve its target of reducing fatalities by 20% for the past two years, despite the fact that CEOs of mining companies signed a declaration of commitment to zero occupational diseases, injuries and fatalities in 2003.