South Africa Gears Up for Mining Prosecutions


"Mineral Resources Dept. aims to give teeth to the Mining Health and Safety Act."

The heat is on mining CEOs to make greater strides in safety as the threat of jail sentences loom over executives found guilty of contravening safety regulations.

Mining health and safety law expert at Werksmans Attorneys Wessel Badenhorst said on Tuesday that the industry should soon expect an increase in safety-related prosecutions as South Africa's Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) gears up to give teeth to the Mining Health and Safety Act.

The law makes provision for the prosecution and jailing of CEOs. According to Badenhorst, it has also become standard practice for CEOs to be called in by the DMR to make presentations in cases of serious safety incidents.

Last year the department budgeted R$145M for prosecutions and hired a legal expert to pursue cases of possible safety breaches.

On Tuesday the Chamber of Mines said that the work-related deaths of 128 miners in 2010 was the biggest annual improvement since 2003 when it undertook to bring mine deaths down to levels comparable to benchmark countries such as Australia, the U.S. and Canada by 2013. That year 270 miners died at work.

In 2009, 168 miners died so the 2010 figure represents a 24% improvement. The benchmark countries measure fatality rates, which are either fatalities per 1,000 people working or fatalities per million hours worked.

The DMR is expected to release the industry's labor numbers for 2010 later this year, which is necessary to calculate fatality rates.

The gold industry, which has the oldest and deepest mines in South Africa, accounted for 63 deaths (also 63 in 2009), followed by platinum's 32 (41 in 2009) and coal's 13 (18 in 2009).

The Chamber's safety and sustainable development adviser Sietse van der Woude said the major risks remained falling ground, accidents related to the use of transport and machinery, noise and dust.

Related Articles

Get Our Streetwise Reports Newsletter Free

A valid email address is required to subscribe