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Mining deaths fall in 2016

The number of miners who lost their lives in workplace accidents declined in 2016,

The number of miners who lost their lives in workplace accidents declined in 2016, confirming that efforts by government and mining companies are having a lasting effect on safety in the mineral resources sector.

Mining deaths fall to all-time low

2016 saw the fewest number of mining deaths on record at a total of 73 – down from 77 in 2015 and significantly lower than apartheid-era figures that typically ran into the hundreds.

Announcing the reduction in mining deaths, Mineral Resources Minister Moselenzi Zwane praised his department’s efforts at ensuring mining safety.

Government has been cracking down on mines that operate less-than-safe shafts and extraction facilities, shutting down mines that do not comply with safety regulations until the issues are addressed.

Unions: death toll is still too high

Despite the progress that has been made, mining unions have cautioned that 73 deaths per year is still not acceptable. Considering the trauma and loss of family income that result from the death of a main breadwinner, unions have suggested that the ideal number of deaths should be zero.

During 2016, gold mines accounted for the greatest number of deaths (30), followed by platinum mines (27), and coal mines (4). A total of 12 miners lost their lives in other types of mines during the year.

Mining safety: the cost of non-compliance

South Africa’s mines are the world’s deepest, with miners working at depths of up to 4km underground. These extreme depths create potentially dangerous working conditions, which may not be totally avoidable but should definitely be reduced as far as possible.

Mining companies have been taken by surprise recently as the DMR makes good on its commitment to suspend operations at mines where safety standards are not being adhered to.

In some cases, the entire mine has been shut down over small infringements, even if no mine workers were injured as a result. Although some mining companies, including AngloGold Ashanti, have challenged this in court, the authorities show no sign of backing down.

By working together to avoid mining deaths, the mining sector and government should aim to reduce the danger that mineworkers face on a daily basis – while keeping mine closures and fines to a minimum