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February 2007
This Mining News discusses the war on Malaria, theft at mines and who the perpetrators are, and are earthquakes resistant support systems needed? Also, safety in gold mines under threat, the benefit of BEE to the Bakwena Ba Mogopa community and an article on MQA qualifications. We end with and article on an agreement the IDC has made to improve economic wealth in Limpopo Province

Winning the Malaria war

Big businesses in Africa have to rise to the challenge of being good corporate citizens.  Not only because social responsibility is part of how modern business is done, but because it is also in their own best interests. This was the lesson BHP Billiton learned when the company entered Mozambique in 1999 to build its US$2-billion aluminium smelter, about 15 kilometres outside the capital Maputo, in a region called Boane.

Soon after construction began the company started to fall behind schedule because malaria was severely affecting its workforce. In the first phase of the construction alone, there were 2 000 cases of malaria recorded among its workers and 13 lives were lost to the disease in the first two years. This even after the company had set up a malaria clinic and implemented measures like issuing bed nets and pesticide spraying in the surrounding areas.

It came as a big wake-up call and Andre van der Bergh BHP Billiton's southern Africa regional adviser for health, safety, environment and communities, says they found they could not just target their workers and neglect the broader communities surrounding the smelter.

We knew our malaria programme could not just be site specific because people don't always stay on site, we had to think quite differently about our approach,' says Van der Bergh.

Initially BHP became involved with community health programmes run by the Mozambique government, funding the purchase and spraying of areas around Maputo stretching towards the South African border. But much more was needed.

At the same time in 1999, a tri-country agreement, between South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique, called the Lubombo Spatial Development Initiative (LSDI), was signed.  The LSDI is a joint agreement of co-operation and service delivery to boost economic development in the three areas.

Says Van der Bergh: 'You need to spray over a large area, following a co-ordinated, specifically scheduled timeframe, for spraying initiatives to be effective'.  The LSDI proved to be perfect to ensure co-ordinated, widespread spraying.

BHP Billiton has over the past five years invested US$1.2-million in the project, which also receives funding from the United Nations-backed Global Fund as well as other agencies and government structures.

The project includes indoor residual spraying (IRS) that makes use of the controversial pesticide DDT.  DDT is considered hazardous because it disrupts food chains, kills animals and is potentially dangerous to humans.  But the WHO (World Health Organization) has in recent years given the go-ahead for DDT to be used in IRS as part of their Global Malaria Programme.

In defence of DDT, Van der Bergh says the pesticide has proved to be one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to fight malaria.  He explains: "There are four categories of chemicals that are traditionally used in spraying programmes.  The problem is that the mosquitoes build up a resistance to the chemicals and the spraying programmes therefore become ineffective.  We rotate and manage the use of chemicals carefully to ensure there is no chemical resistance build up'.

This has meant that the 1 000 sprayers who work in the Lubombo area have to be well trained.  Van der Bergh says locals are also made aware of the initiative and that proper data collection takes place.  Workers and researchers do this by using window traps to monitor the prevalence of malaria carrying mosquitoes and even use hi-tech methods like global satellite positioning (GPS) technology to track malaria hotspots.  Bed nets are issued and there is a big emphasis on the proper treatment of those who are infected.

The programme has proved to be highly successful and now reaches four million people.  In the last four years the prevalence of malaria among children in the age group of two to 15 has been reduced by 80%.  In some areas the numbers of parasites caught have decreased by up to 09% and on average the success rate is between 87% and 98% across all the localities.

The success of this co-operative malaria project also means that tourism and business is boosted in the Lubombo district.  And most important it means countless lives have been saved.

Theft at Mines Could Lead to Job Losses

When precious metals are stolen from the mines it is not just the mining bosses and the shareholders that suffer. Theft erodes the profitability of a company and is particularly detrimental to marginal mines with narrow profit margins; it can even stop production and lead to the laying off of workers.

The chamber of mines commissioned the Institute for security studies in 2003 to undertake a follow-up on the theft from South African mines and refineries study by Peter Gastrow in 2001. The latest study covers the period January 2000 to December 2004.

Despite the latest in crime detection and prevention technology, theft is still common at most mines and processing plants.

The study reveals that it is generally accepted in the industry that most of the stolen goods sold on the black market ends up in the hands of syndicates.

Four gold mining houses and one gold refinery took part in the latest study. They stated that over 69 000 kg of gold, valued at more than 6.8-million was reported to the police and that they themselves recovered around R16-million of gold bearing material themselves between January 2000 and December 2004. The police and participating mines together recovered an average of R4 574 300 a year during the same period.

Two platinum mining houses participated in the study. In the period January 1999 to December 2004, they reported about 271 150 kg to the value of nearly R80-million recovered pgm material to the police; in addition the mines recovered material to the value of over R34-million themselves.

The report states that: “The average recovery for pgm material is approximately R17.5-million a year. There was a substantial increase in the value of recoveries made during 2000 (more than 135%). The participating mining houses’ protection services confirmed that extensive operations were conducted during 2000, resulting in large recoveries”.

Although recoveries have been extensive, the report points out that, “There is a lack of standardized reporting methods within the mining industry as well as in correlation with the police”. For reporting to be standardized all role-players will need to agree on reporting methods and ways of calculating comparative data for analytical purposes.

The study also looked at the profile of offenders:

·        At gold mines, 56% of the offenders were unemployed and 41% were mine employees

·        At platinum mines, 73% of the offenders were mine employees or contractors and 18% were unemployed.

These figures reveal that a high percentage of offenders were trespassing on supposedly secure mining areas while committing theft and that collusion with mining personnel must, therefore, be taking place.

The study reported that, “80% of the mine-workers believed that unions could play a part in the reduction of crime. However, all attempts to solicit the participation of the unions in the study failed”.

From February 2002 to May 2004, the Joint Investigation Group reported 26 criminal cases of gold theft, with 42 arrests and recoveries to the value of R1 359 188 and 17 criminal cases of platinum theft, with 25 arrests and recoveries to the value of R11 855 777. Another four cases involving R52.5-million are pending.

Are Earthquakes Resistant Support Systems Needed?

Craig morkel MP, a member of the parliamentary portfolio committee on minerals and energy, has proposed that the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate (MHSI) and the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) consider means to make it compulsory that the minimum testing requirements for mine support systems be extended beyond the static load test conducted by the CSIR to include a dynamic load test that would simulate seismic events or earthquakes.

Morkel suggests that the increase in reported fatalities and injuries at gold mines would be significantly reduced or eliminated if the support systems that pass the static load tests conducted by the CSIR are also subjected to the rigorous dynamic load tests conducted at Savuka under the stewardship of the safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee (Simrac).

Morkel believes that either the developers of support system technology or the mining houses should pay for the far more expensive dynamic load testing at Savuka- approximately R20 000 per test. The MHSC recently estimated that the monetary value of a death to the industry was between R3-million to R6-million.

It is possible, morkel maintains, to rate the minimum dynamic load capabilities of support systems according to an order of magnitude for measuring seismic events of earthquakes such as the Richter scale.

A mini safety indaba will be held on 28 February. It will be followed by the Mine Health and Safety Summit in October 2007 and will serve as a good opportunity to initiate debate that could result in the further development of appropriate government or industry regulation, the development of standards, or codes of good practice.

Safety in Gold Mines Under Threat

A report in Business Day on 30 January highlights the deteriorating safety record in the gold mining sector. The report ascribes this to mining houses that are revisiting disused sections of their mines as the gold price increases.

The issue will be brought under the spotlight at the mini safety indaba to be held on 28 February. Ministers Buyelwa Sonjica of the department of Minerals and Energy called for the indaba after five miners were killed in a rockfall at Tau Tona mine near Carletonville in October 2006.

Mthokozisi Zondi, acting chairman of the Mine Health and Safety Council, told parliament’s minerals and energy affairs committee that although the platinum sector recorded a 26% drop in fatalities in 2005/2006, the gold mining sector reported a deteriorating situation.

Acting chief inspector of mines, Thabo Gazi, told the committees that the gold sector was responsible for 51% (104 of the total of 202) fatalities in 2005/2006 and 56% of all injuries in the industry.

Gazi pointed out that the deterioration in the gold sector’s fatality record was undermining efforts to bring the industry’s safety record into line with international standards.

Commitment to safety targets

The mining industry has made a commitment to achieving the occupational health and safety targets and 10-year milestones agreed to at the 2003 Mine Health and Safety Summit.

The overall target is zero rate of fatalities and injuries.


By 2013 the gold mining sector will, at the least, achieve safety performance levels equivalent to current international benchmarks for underground metalliferous mines. Whilst in the platinum, coal and other sectors it will achieve constant and continuous improvement equivalent to current international benchmarks.

Elimination of silicosis

The industry will, by December 2008, achieve a situation where 95% of all exposure measurement results will be below the occupational exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica of 0.1mg/m3.

After December 2013 no new cases of silicosis will occur amongst previously unexposed people (i.e. people unexposed prior to 2008).

Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL)

After December 2008, the hearing conservation programme implemented by industry must ensure that there is no deteriorating in hearing greater than 10% amongst those exposed to high levels of noise in the industry.

By December 2013, the total noise emitted by all equipment installed in any workplace must not exceed a sound pressure level of 110dB(A) at any location in that workplace.

The industry has also committed to identify and implement strategies to achieve the targets and milestones; to co-operate with other stakeholders, in particular the government and the unions, to share best practice to promote occupational health and safety.

Community to Benefit from BEE

Xstrata Alloys and the Bakwena Ba Mogopa Traditional community have agreed terms for a R575-million black economic empowerment (BEE) transaction at the Rhovan vanadium facility near Brits in the North West. Through the transaction, the community will have an effective 26% participation in the Xstrata Alloys vanadium business through a pooling and sharing venture.

“This agreement once again demonstrates our commitment to fulfill the spirit of the Mining Charter through meaningful BEE ownership suited to each commodity business. We are looking forward to having community members being part of the operational management of the venture in the future”, said Xstrata Alloys chief executive officer, Peet Nienaber.

“The vanadium mine in Bethanie has historically played a significant role in our community. A large portion of the operation’s labour force is drawn from the community, and we were entitled to receive a royalty from the mine owners in the past. We are pleased that the community is now a material shareholder in this business, and that we have an opportunity to participate jointly with Xstrata in developing the assets to the benefit of both participants”; said Chief Mathibedi of the Bakwena Ba Mogopa.

Xstrata and the community will establish an executive committee comprising both Xstrata and community representatives, which will have overall management control of the Rhovan operations. Skills transfer programmes will be established with the specific objective of advancing members of the community into the management of the operation. Community development initiatives and BEE-based procurement will also take place.

The transaction is expected to be completed in the first half of 2007.      

MQA Introduces Stringent Verification of Grant Applications

A stringent verification process is now part of the Mining Qualification Authority’s ABET grant disbursement protocol.

The MQA’s ABET specialist, Sizwe Mafunga, says the verification procedure focuses on new applications for ABET grants being received from mining companies.

“In consultation with the industry, we arrived at this decision to ensure the efficient roll-out of ABET grants to mining employees who still need to become part of ABET and to reduce risk”, he says.

“As an organisation administering government funding, we have to be accountable and ensure compliance with the Public Finance Management Act.

“From now on, when the MQA receives new applications for ABET grants; we will make a provisional allocation to the applicant that is subject to verification.

 “The verification process determines the accuracy of the number of learners on whose behalf the company has applied for ABET grants, as well as other variables such as the existences of facilities, moderators, assessors, adequate training facilities and up to date class registers within the company.

“We’re also going to be looking at each company’s ABET figures against what these companies have reported in their workplace skills plan (WSPs).

“Every new application received will be physically verified by a visit from an MQA representative, who will interview the employer on a one-on-one basis, as well as a sample of the learners”.

The first verifications were conducted in October 2006 and were completed in December of that year in a highly labour intensive exercise in which the entire MQA staff complement was deployed to call on mining companies around the country.

“We want to ensure the longevity of the ABET grant system in the interests of further learning and skills development”, says Mafunga.

“It’s critical in our industry to give workers the opportunity to upskill, but we will not allow the system to be abused”.


IDC to Improve Economic Wealth in Limpopo Province

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has entered into an agreement with Limpopo Economic Development Enterprise (LIMDEV) and Trade Investment Limpopo (TIL) to co-operate in supporting entrepreneurs in the mining, agriculture, manufacturing and tourism sectors and to improve the economic wealth of the Limpopo Province.

Geoffrey Qhena, IDC’s chief executive officer, said: “The agreement will help us broaden our reach to prospective patrons in the greater Limpopo region. It is our key mandate to support and develop small and medium enterprises in the province. We hope to jointly facilitate sustainable development in the province.”

“It is a pleasure for us to team up with the IDC to encourage economic development and empowerment in Limpopo”; said Joe Mathebula, TIL’s chief executive director.

 Chupu Mathabatha, managing director of LIMDEV, explained: “We are geared to promote, persuade, develop, finance and facilitate inc=vestment in the agro-processing, commerce, industry, mining, tourism and transport sectors and thus contributing to the economic prosperity and creation of wealth for Limpopo and its people. We are delighted to enter into co-operation agreement with IDC.”

Trade and Investment Limpopo is an official agency for the Limpopo Provincial Government and markets potential and investment opportunities to local, national, and international business.

LimDev was established to encourage, plan, finance, co-ordinate, promote and carry out development of Limpopo and its population, either directly or indirectly, in the fields of agro-processing, commerce, industry, tourism, public transport, mining and housing.

The IDC is a self-financing, South African state-owned national development finance institution that provides financing to entrepreneurs engaged in competitive industries. Its primary objectives are to contribute to balanced sustainable economic growth in Africa and to the economic empowerment of the population, thereby promoting the economic prosperity of all.



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