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Miners in South Africa call for urgent summit to address fatalities

The Minerals Council of South Africa has called for a MineSafe summit to be held as soon as possible after local government elections, to “urgently address the regression in safety” on mine sites in the country.

The council said it supported the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, organised labour, professional associations, and suppliers in arranging the summit this month but asked it to be expedited to be held as soon as possible.

The industry recently experienced one of its worst weeks regarding safety, with two multiple fatalities incidents in the last week. Two workers were fatally injured at Harmony Gold Mining’s Kusasalethu mine last week due to seismic activity. The latest fatalities were the company’s eighth and ninth of the year, bringing the total fatalities across mine sites in the country to 55, compared with 43 at the same time last year.

Fatality-free operations

“This is the second year of regression in the safety performance since the 2019 record low of 51 fatalities,” the council said. The council, in a statement, recommitted itself to finding solutions to reverse the trend and to ensure mineworkers return home unharmed every day. At the CEO Zero Harm Forum, CEOs and mine leadership recommitted themselves to achieving fatality-free operations, re-evaluating and re-energising their safety programmes, and learning from each other to minimise repeated incidents.

The council stated that technology must become an integral part of solving the recent uptick in mine site fatalities.

“With the regression we are experiencing, we need to put a lot more focus on technology and modernisation to improve skills and mining methods to keep employees safe,” said Themba Mkhwanazi, chair of the CEO Zero Harm Leadership Forum.

The statement comes as five of the top mining unions in the country have joined a new forum addressing mine modernisation to help extend the lives of mines, save current jobs in mining, and create new opportunities in South Africa.

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