While there have been significant improvements in the mining industry’s health and safety performance in the last two decades, a steep change was needed to accomplish the 2024 zero harm target, according to Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) president Mxolisi Mgojo.
Achieving the zero-harm milestone was a resolution taken at the Mine Health and Safety Council meeting in 2003 and reaffirmed this year by mining companies, government and labour representatives to curb mine fatalities.
This year has seen 35 deaths reported due to mine accidents compared with 63 in the same period the previous year. Fifty-eight mine workers died last year compared with 51 during the same period in 2017.
Addressing the two-day Mining Indaba, which ends today in Johannesburg, Mgojo said: “We have resolved to become more focused in our approach over the next two years.
“There is growing evidence that the actions that need to be taken to eliminate fatalities are different from those that need to be taken to eliminate the less serious injuries,” Mgojo said.
Mining houses, said Mgojo, planned placing “equal emphasis on fatalities that result from accidents and occupational health”.
“Importantly, we are concerned about the health of employees – both during their employment and afterwards.
“We know that fatalities are often the result of a complicated set of circumstances [which] need to be dealt with through a holistic approach,” Mgojo said.
Reflecting on the industry’s health and safety historical record, which he said “has improved markedly over time”, Mgojo conceded that thousands of mineworkers had died at work over the past 100 years.
Mgojo said the industry was determined to eliminate all workplace fatalities, through the newly launched Khumbul’ekhaya [“Remember Home”] campaign.
Mgojo said: “In January this year, 34 mining company CEOs came together in what we called heartfelt conversations. They were heartfelt indeed – meaningful, open, introspective and reflective – they were uncomfortable and challenging.
“What arose from that was the Khumbul’ekhaya strategy.”