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March 2008
Health and Safety in Mining. Driefontein Get Three Major Awards. Cullinan, an ABET Success Story


The issue of health and safety in the mining industry occupies the attention of many people who would like to see healthier and safer working conditions for those who spend their working days in the bowels of the earth extracting the wealth of this country. Those concerned with these issues include mine workers, employers in the industry, employee representative organizations and government.  

The inability to meet industry targets and milestones agreed to at the 2003 Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) Summit, despite concerted efforts, prompted the chamber of Mines and its members to establish the Mining Industry Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) Task Force in 2006. The purpose of this Task Force is to determine why some mining companies achieve better results in their efforts to improve health and safety than others and what could be learned from them to improve health and safety throughout the industry.

The proposals made by the MOSH Task force, following their investigations, led to the development of the MOSH Adoption System, the purpose of which is to facilitate the adoption of proven practical best technological and behavioural practices within the industry to facilitate the acceleration of better health and safety performance throughout the mining industry. The operational units of the MOSH Adoption System are the MOSH adoption teams.

The task teams will focus on four critical areas: fall of rock, noise, dust and leadership.

Responding to questions from Mining News on why the adoption teams were on focus on these areas, Sietse van der Woude, the Safety and Sustainable Development Adviser for the Chamber of Mines said: “We decided to focus on the four areas because, while safety performance shortfalls are easily noticed, measuring progress in interventions for noise and dust is difficult in the short team. We included leadership because we believe that without the leadership of industry leaders as well as that of our social partners, government and labour, the attainment of our goals would be difficult if not impossible”.



Gold Fields’ Driefontein mine swept the board at the company’s annual health and safety awards held at their Mining School of Excellence in February.  

Driefontein Mine came out tops with winners in all three major categories of mine overseeing, shaft management and operational management. Three of the company’s four mines already meet ISO accreditation, while South Deep is in the process of meeting accreditation requirements. But while Driefontein beat rivals in the group: Beatrix, South Deep and Kloof mines; the awards this year also belonged to the proto teams that were acknowledged for the life-saving work they are called upon to do.

Team captain from all four mines were recognized at the awards ceremony for what Gold Field’s head of South African operations, Terence Good lace, said was for working behind the scenes, but fulfilling one of the most important roles on a mine. “Hats off to the Proto teams; they are our unsung heroes who save lives and work in very difficult conditions,” he said.

The awards ceremony also marked the launch of the next edition of Gold Field’s “Full Compliance” comic. In this edition, which is available in various languages, the focus is on combating noise induced hearing loss. The cover features Thomas Mashaba, Driefontein Mines’ own boxing champion. Mashaba is the current WBO featherweight champion and he also spoke at the awards ceremony. “Inside and outside the ring I have to take care of myself. I want to live a long and healthy life and keep my title for the next 10 years and that’s why we have to fight things like noise induced hearing loss which is permanent,” said the home-grown boxing hero. 


“Part-time ABET training solutions are generally not successful for a range of reasons,” says Koos Nel, ABET Technical Training Superintendent, De Beers’ Cullinan Mine.  

“For one thing, it takes a long time for part-time learners to complete their training and the learners have a limited time to spend with facilitators. Another challenge is keeping learners motivated.

“The success of any training intervention must be motivated by more than merely complying with legislation, but rather a genuine desire to improve your workforce’s professional and personal lives.”

In 1995, Cullinan Mine recognized that most employees in its workforce were functionally illiterate and that skills in general needed uplifting to meet the company’s objectives and to provide personal development opportunities for the workforce.

However, it was clear that any training intervention would have to be implemented within daily business activities, with as little impact on goals such as production targets set by management.

“The first step was to ensure buy-in and visible support from management for the proposed training intervention that would require learners to take some of the time traditionally dedicated to production for their learning activities,” says Nel. “This in turn affects line managers’ targets.

“Given these issues, Cullinan Mine researched and identified a training partner who could provide accredited training; user friendly learning materials and a support function to ensure the mine achieved its National Skills Development Strategy targets.

“We settled on ABET specialists, Media Works, who take a multi-media approach – self paced learning combined with one on one facilitation and we duly established a resourced ABET unit, initially servicing learners from various units within the mine.”

School exam approach not successful

Once into the programme, however, an assessment by management and the mine’s ABET team revealed that the “school exam” route was not proving successful. Most ABET learners had not been exposed to examination conditions found in a normal schooling system and this resulted in learners either failing or dropping out of the programme.

On the advice of training partner Media Works, portfolio based learning was introduced in 2004.

Portfolio based aims to develop skills alongside knowledge, using portfolios to support learning.

The development of key or transferable skills within programmes requires teaching and learning strategies that encourage and foster the students’ ability to self assess and take responsibility for the development of these skills.

The portfolio approach encourages this development and, since it was introduced, Cullinan’s ABET centre has achieved a 100% pass rate.

The role of facilitators

“As in any learning relationship, the role of facilitators is critical to guide and mentor adult learners,” says Nel. “Our ABET team members are all full-time employees – comprising two ABET facilitators who report to an ABET co-ordinator.

“The learners know that they need to be disciplined and must dedicate the required time towards ultimately achieving their goals, which is to complete each level to progress within the ABET training programme and in the work place.

“Because of the value our learners are placing on their ABET training, we are considering running Saturday classes to provide longer tuition time and make it easier for the learners to attend.”

Success factors

Some contributing factors to a successful part time ABET programme include:

  • Buy in and visible support from management
  • Ongoing support from line managers
  • A structured ABET programme that provides for periodic assessment of learners
  • Portfolio learning rather than exam based learning
  • Team work – learners, facilitators, the training partner and management
  • Adequate resources – learning materials, a learning venue and dedicated facilitators.

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