Pretoria – 2015 saw the lowest number of fatalities ever recorded in the mining sector since the start of mining in South Africa.
“A total of 77 fatalities were reported in 2015 compared to 84 reported for 2014. This translates to an improvement of 8% year-on-year,” Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said.
On Thursday, he released the statistics on health and safety performance of the mining industry for the calendar year of 2015.
“Statics shows that before 1994, the mining industry reported high fatalities, injuries and occupational diseases.
“The figures reported by the industry were on average 800 fatalities and 12 000 injuries per annum over the two decades before 1994,” Minister Zwane said.
He said since the dawn of democracy, government had developed and implemented appropriate policies which have contributed to the downward trend in the annual figures.
Minister Zwane said South Africa’s mining sector is now comparing favourably in terms of the fatality rates in other countries such as the United States and Canada.
General and ground fall accidents have in the past been major contributors to fatalities in the sector.
“However, there has been a reduction of 31% in the number of fatalities classified under general from 29 fatalities in 2014 to 20 fatalities in 2015,” the Minister said.
A total of 3 116 injuries were reported in 2015 compared to 2 700 in 2014.
The mining industry recorded an improvement of 3% in the number of occupational diseases reported from 6 810 in 2013 to 6 577 in 2014.
“Nationally, the rate of silicosis cases decreased by 24%, pulmonary tuberculosis cases increased by 9%, silo-tuberculosis cases decreased by 27%, noise induced hearing loss increased by 5%, coal workers pneumoconiosis cases decreased by 23%, asbestosis increased by 50%, while other diseases decreased by 6%, bearing in mind the latency period,” Minister Zwane said.
National Union of Mineworkers National Secretary for Health and Safety, Eric Gcilitshana, has welcomed the figures, saying they reflect a decline in fatalities in the mining sector.
“We believe this is a result of a number of interventions that have been done together by management, the Department of Mineral Resources and organised labour.
“If you look back to 2012, that’s when we started to see a major decline in fatalities as the figures were just above 100. In 2013, they were around 94. In 2014, they were at 84. That shows that there has been a consistent decline,” he said.
Gcilitshana said as much as he welcomed the decline, the union was still concerned about the figures because there are widows in the rural areas who have lost breadwinners as a result of the deaths in the sector.
Solidarity General Secretary Gideon du Plessis noted the overall improvement on the health and safety figures but emphasised that the zero percent target for fatalities had to be reached going forward.