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Issue 18 of 38 Next Issue | Previous Issue | 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38
March 2009
 
WORKING TOGETHER TO ACCELERATE SAFETY IMPROVEMENT

The Chamber of mines has welcomed the early February release of the Presidential Safety Audit report by the minister of minerals and energy, Buyelwa Sonjica, saying that from the outset the Chamber had been supportive of the Presidential Audit as a tool to highlight safety shortcomings and leading practices in the mining industry and to accelerate safety improvement in the sector. 

The audit was conducted at 355 mines across five mining sectors – gold, platinum, coal, diamonds and smaller mining activities – and focused on the health and safety of mines in South Africa

Following an incident in which 3 200 workers were trapped underground for hours in October 2007, former President Thabo Mbeki ordered a comprehensive health and safety audit of local mines to determine their level of compliance with health and safety legislation. On releasing this year’s audit, the minister expressed serious concern at what she termed: “the gaps in the safety standards” in the mining industry, saying that over the pest three years, unsafe working conditions had led to the death of about 200 mine workers annually, in addition to the almost 5 000 people who are injured annually. “If one looks at the statistics, they do not paint a particularly rosy picture of the state of affairs in this important sector of our economy,” she said. “Some of the injuries are so severe that they result in amputations of limbs, which translates into the loss of the ability to earn income thereby undermining the standard of living of breadwinners and the consequent increase in medical bills.”
 

Scores

The overall health and safety score achieved by the South African mining industry was 66%, based on an Audit of the following categories of compliance: mine design, statutory reports, legal appointments, safety risk management, occupational health and safety policy, health risk management, codes of practice, occupational health and safety training, health and safety representatives and committees, mine explosive’ control, mine water management and public health and safety. 

In terms of occupational health and safety, the industry scored 59% compliance and 56% for health risk management, while public health and safety in mines received 65% compliance. The highest score across the industry was for legal appointments in the industry which came in at 75% compliance. The lowest score 47% compliance with health risk management regulations. The gold industry scored 53% compliance when it came to health risk management.
 

Industry Comment

General Secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Frans Baleni told the media that the NUM was happy with the release of the report, saying it was long overdue. “Safety is a constitutional right for every single worker in the mining industry and we will be studying the report and making appropriate recommendations.” Solidarity said it welcomed the mine Audit report and was looking forward to being part of the task team that will probably be formed shortly to handle the implementation of suggestions in the report.



IMPLEMENTING SAFETY SUGGETIONS ESSENTIAL

Jaco Kleynhans, Solidarity spokesperson, said. “All parties are determined to make a difference in the industry this year. The key to success is now to implement the report’s suggestions quickly and in an organized manner, within a set timeframe and with timely feedback.” 

According to Solidarity, the investigation resulted in two big improvements in the industry even before the release of the audit report. The Department of Minerals and Energy, organized labour and the Chamber of Mines co-operated to implement various safety measures at South African mines, which measures have already started bearing fruit, with a 24% decrease in mining facilities in 2008. 

Chamber of Mines president, Sipho Nkosi, said that while the mining industry had halved the number of facilities over the last decade, followed by another year of significant improvements in the mine safety in 2008, the Chamber would continue to work relentlessly to further reduce the number of accidents to achieve the vision of zero harm. 

He stressed however that an improvement in compliance could only be achieved through partnership with the other stakeholders in the industry – a partnership approached that stakeholders agreed to during the Mine Health and Safety Leadership Summit of 2008. 

“The Chamber therefore calls on all stakeholders to work together towards preventive action and compliance, rather than allocating blame or introducing new punitive measures at a time when safety is significantly improving,” said Nkosi. “This should be done under the auspices of the Mine Health and Safety Council. It is only by jointly addressing compliance issues that there will be a continuation and, more importantly, and acceleration of the trend toward safety improvement.”


ANGLO AMERICAN SA BOAST RECORD BEE

Anglo American South Africa and its independently managed subsidiaries spent R24.6-billion on procurement of consumables, services and capital, and enterprise development with black-owned suppliers during 2008, compared to R17.3-billion in 2007. 

Commenting on the group’s performance in the small to medium enterprise (SME) sector, Anglo American SA Head, Kuseni Dlamini, said: “It is through supporting deserving and passionate entrepreneurs that Anglo makes a wider, meaningful and lasting contribution to the efforts to erase poverty and unemployment and contributes to sustainable and inclusive economic growth and development in South Africa.” 

Anglo Platinum was at the top of the list having procured R9.9-billion, followed by Anglo Coal and Kumba Iron Ore with R4.8-billion and R2.2-billion respectively. 

The procurement spend equates to 37% of a total available spend excluding goods and services from parastatals and municipalities.


INNOVATIVE WAY TO MANAGE ACID MINE WATER DRAINAGE

Following the successful completion of a pre-feasibility study in October 2008, the Western Utilities Corporation (WUC), as part of its management agreement with the Western Basin Environmental Corporation (WBEC), has now embarked on the bankable feasibility study phase of an innovative project that presents a sustainable solution to managing acid mine water drainage (AMD), not only in the western Basin, but beyond to the Eastern and Central Basins, as part of a regional mine closure strategy. 

The Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) recently came on board as a financial partner for the bankable feasibility study.
 

Creative solution

The WBEC project is likely to make a substantial social impact on local communities, and also to present a creative solution to environmental challenges. It addresses the issue of AMD discharging from Witwatersrand mines into underground voids created by mining at an annual average rate of 15 mega litres a day. 

Many of the mining houses active on the Witwatersrand over the last 100 years have ceased operations, or no longer exist, placing the onus for finding an effective and sustainable solution to this important environmental challenge on the few companies that still have active interest in the area. 

These companies include Mintails (through its operating subsidiary, Mogale Gold Mine), Harmony Gold Mining Company Ltd (through its operating subsidiary, Randfontein Estates Ltd) and Durban Roodepoort Deep (DRD), whose operations are dormant, through technically active, at West Wits Gold Mine on the West Rand, Padmodzi Gold and Ergo Mining on the East Rand and Central Rand Gold and DRD Gold in the Central Rand area. 

Aside from a moral obligation to address the problem of AMD, these remaining companies are required to do so by the National Water Act, which stipulates that “the polluter pays.” The Act provides for the use of economic instruments to encourage waste discharges to discharge waste without causing harm to others or imposing a cost upon society. Thus the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has issued a directive that no mining house will be permitted to close any further operations in the area until the affected water has been satisfactory rehabilitated.

In response, the three gold mining operations joined forces to form a number of Section 21 companies (WBEC, Central Basin Environmental Corporation and Eastern Basin Environmental Corporation) to execute a sustainable solution to AMD on behalf of the mines. These companies have signed, or are in the process of signing, a management agreement with Western Utilities Corporation to provide funding, management, construction and operational capacity.

 
ABC process

The plant will use the South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s (CSIR) Alkaline Barium Calcium process, a chemical precipitation treatment process that has the capability to remove heavy metals and sulphates from contaminated water. It includes the use of a pyrometallurgical methodology to convert various byproducts back into raw materials that can be sold or re-used to reduce processing costs. 

The ultimate aim is to create a Zero effluent discharge plant, which in effect will mean the contaminated AMD water will be purified up to potable water.

 

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