After eight straight years of low statistics, all of a sudden in 2016, the rate of accidents in the South African mining sector has increased – a development that is of great concern to the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the industry at large.
Records indicate that the death toll has risen from 48 in 2015 to 55 in 2016. While this figure might seem negligible, the general impression is “one accident is one too many”.
“Avoidable” accidents recorded in some mines in 2016 have compelled the DMR to step up efforts to increase inspection through amongst others, measures like compulsory safety stoppages.
Currently, mining companies are feeling the effects of weak commodity prices, which has resulted in cutbacks on expenditure. It cannot be exactly established whether this might have contributed to safety lapses.
However, interestingly, Paul Mardon, head of Safety at union, Solidarity, provides a possible link. He says, as they are more focused on increasing production, they tend to overlook requisite safety measures, increasing the vulnerability of their employees to risk.
His opinion echoes, what Neal Froneman, the CEO of Sibanye Resources, the gold and platinum producer said in a Report filed by Reuters. Providing the possible explanation, Froneman said “There could be production pressure that results in people putting production ahead of safety – not that we condone that.”