Friday, 26 November 2021

Pretoria: With the mining sector experiencing fatalities and injuries that can be prevented, Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe has called on the sector to prioritise the safety of workers.

“The provisional number of reported fatalities and injuries for 2021 stands at 58 and 1 810, respectively. All employers should now walk the talk. We cannot condone poor compliance with mine standards as this leads to the loss of lives. Many of these incidents are repeats and they can be prevented,” the Minister said on Thursday.

Addressing the media virtually on the measures to ensure sustainable improvement on Mine Health and Safety, Mantashe said mining companies must take the necessary steps to save lives.

“Surely, we cannot say things are in order when the corrective measures that have been taken palpably demonstrate minimal impact as workers continue to die in this industry,” he said.

Fall of ground accidents remain the largest accident category and the predominant cause of fatalities followed by general accident and transportation categories respectively.

“This is regrettable as it is expected that all mines should have appropriate measures and expertise to enhance the health and safety of miners. So, we urge you to go back to the drawing board and constantly focus on safety performance.”

He urged mineworkers not to risk their lives because of production bonuses.

“We need to collectively adopt the fundamental stance that if mines cannot mine safely then they should not mine at all until the necessary measures have been put in place to protect the lives of all mineworkers,” the Minister said.

The Minister expressed concern at complaints received from workers who are intimidated or victimised whilst exercising their rights to withdraw or refuse to work under dangerous environments.

“Allow me to remind every worker and employer that mineworkers have a right to refuse dangerous work and to leave a dangerous working space. I call on all companies, to work with organised labour, to ensure that mineworkers have appropriate knowledge, skills and support to exercise their rights to withdraw or refuse to work under dangerous conditions.

“As government, we will take as serious offence where a mining company refuses to attend to incidents of safety but instead forces workers to continue working,” the Minister said.

The latest statistics and reports on occupational health matters at mines demonstrates that some employees are still exposed to occupational hazards, which exceed the occupational exposure limit.

“Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Noise Induced Hearing Loss remain a great concern particularly in the gold, platinum, and coal sectors. Silicosis is still of concern in the gold sector where crystalline silica is most prevalent.

“The silicosis novice cases from the gold mines require an in-depth investigation in line with provisions under the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA). Lastly, non-communicable diseases, including cardiovascular diseases, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases, and diabetes further exacerbate the disease burden we already have in our industry,” Mantashe said.

He said the sector needs to continuously prevent and manage all these health issues, as they affect the workforce average work life expectancy.

“We end up losing crucial resources because of medical incapacitation and mine deaths.” the Minister said.