Since the advent of democracy in South Africa, the health and safety efforts of the mining industry and its partners have paid off in dramatic and literally life-saving ways. Between 1993 and 2016, the industry experienced an 88% overall decline in the number of fatalities, and a 92% decline in fatalities that occurred as a result of falls of ground.
However, in 2017, the South African mining industry’s safety figures regressed for the first time in 10 years. A total of 90 fatalities were recorded, an increase of 17% on the year before, when 73 fatalities took place. In particular, over the latter half of 2017 and the first half of 2018, a spike in the number of accidents related to seismic activity, falls of ground and underground fire incidents was observed.
This trend shook the industry and galvanised it into action, with the Minerals Council Board immediately initiating a number of new safety measures. These were largely undertaken through the CEO Zero Harm Forum and included intense scrutiny of the major causes of accidents, the sharing of good practice protocols and additional research, which was conducted by the MHSC. The involvement of the Minerals Council’s members throughout this process was (and continues to be) essential.
Greater awareness of safety and health has led to a 10% improvement in the number of fatalities in 2018 and the lowest number of fatalities recorded in the first half of 2019.
Although this positive trend was reassuring, and was indicative of the positive contribution of the Minerals Council’s various campaigns, every fatality is still one too many. Further collective efforts were necessary, the Minerals Council acknowledged, including deeper engagement by the industry’s CEOs.