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Mining safety in the Spotlight
27 June 2018
Mining safety in the Spotlight

Accidents happen. None of us can predict the future, which is why life insurance or life cover is so important for when the unforeseen happens.

With a number of mining accidents claiming lives in recent months, we take a look at mining safety at South African mines. 


Grave concern over miners’ safety

Following the deaths at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Masakhane shaft in Driefontein, Carltonville on 3 May 2018, both trade union Solidarity, and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), expressed their concerns over safety in South African mines.

Seven of the 13 miners who were trapped underground on 3 May died following a landslide caused by seismic activity, while the remaining six miners were located and brought to safety. 

Following these deaths, AMCU said that mine safety has become a human rights issue, and that legislation should be strengthened to hold mining bosses criminally accountable for failing to ensure safety at operations. Solidarity was particularly concerned about seismic activities in deep-level mines that caused ground to fall and led to mining fatalities and injuries. 


Concerning statistics

Over 500 fatalities were recorded in 1995 in South Africa’s mining sector. That number went down dramatically to 199 in 2006. But over the years there has been a definite spike.

Although the Ministry didn’t finally release official health and safety figures for mines in 2017, provisional data indicates that 86 miners died in South African mines in 2017, compared to the 73 mining fatalities in 2016; the 77 in 2015; and the 84 in 2014. 

In February, more than 900 miners were trapped at a Sibanye gold mine in Free State. Fortunately, they were all rescued. 


The price of life

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said their members are constantly reminded before going underground that they may refuse to work in dangerous conditions. However, when they’re promised bonuses if they work in certain areas underground, they are tempted because they earn poverty wages.

While mining bosses and the mining sector have been accused of not prioritising the safety of mine workers and only chasing profits, the Chamber of Mines has indicated that fall of ground incidents, particularly at deep-level mines, was an area that the mining industry had focused intensive efforts on over the past several years. 

A spokesperson said that the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) had invested over R400 million in falls of ground research, as well as research into the seismicity associated with deep-level mines. This has led to new mine designs and methods, which had reduced the number of fatalities associated with seismicity from 48 in 2003 to 14 in 2017.

Mamokgethi Molopyane, a mining specialist, commented that it’s a pity that the industry is not yet able to ensure the safety of miners, even though it has been mining for so long and some of the technology had been pioneered in South Africa.

We may not know what tomorrow holds, but we can make provision for our loved ones when we are unable to do so. Speak to Old Mutual iWYZE today about getting affordable life cover in place to help take the uncertainty out of the future. Make the wise insurance choice and get Old Mutual Life Cover today. 

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