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Issue 9 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
April 2012
 
PERSONAL SAFETY OF WOMEN MINERS COMES TO THE FORE
The February murder of a female belt operator working underground at Anglo American Platinum’s Khomanani mine near Rustenburg has brought the issue of personal safety of women miners to the fore, possibly even superseding the health and safety challenges associated with the introduction of women to the mining industry labour force.
 
Sexual harassment underground is allegedly fairly commonplace, although no official statistics exist and victims are apparently reluctant to come forward and make formal complaints. This suggests that one of the single most challenging barriers to successfully integrating women into a traditionally male workforce is the historic taboos between genders. Racial taboos persist, but these are secondary to the gender issue.

Some countries, such as India, still prohibit women from working underground and up until 1974 Canada also enforced this ban, but in other countries of the world, women have long been integrated into the mining industry at all levels. The United States and Australia are prime examples. However, South Africa’s unique mining environment makes it difficult to draw comparisons.

Women in Mining South Africa (WiMSA) chairperson Claire McMaster comments: “We note that the sexual harassment of female underground mine workers does exist in the South African mining industry. This issue is not specific to any organisation or company and the scale on which it exists is difficult to comprehend.

The way forward

Gender integration clearly needs attention in the South African mining industry. This could be accelerated by adapting visual materials such as videos, posters and signs to include images of female mine workers, while to address the problem of workplace isolation of female workers, employers and apprenticeship programmes could assign female workers in pairs or more, whenever possible, especially those who are relatively new to the industry.

Supervisory personnel, trainers, mentors and safety representatives must have sufficient training and guidelines to ensure the safety, health and equitable treatment of female workers.


 

REHABILITATION HUGE SUCCESS

The ubiquitous environmental problems, such as dust associated with legacy tailings dams surrounding the towns of Stilfontein and Klerksdorp are steadily being reduced as the tailing dams, which have been a feature of the local landscape for more than 50 years, are removed.

Mine Waste Solutions (MWS) is rehabilitating 15 sites around the towns while recovering residual gold from the tailings materials. MWS completed phase 1 of the extensive rehabilitation of the MWS Number Two dam alongside the N12 on the outskirts of Stilfontein at the end of 2011. This entailed removing the legacy dam during the gold reclamation process, clean-up of the site and the subsequent planting of indigenous vegetation.

Now the Flanagan tailings dam and the larger NKGE (New Klerksdorp Gold Estate) tailings dam have joined the list of sites that are being rehabilitated. The old Flanagan mine dump, which covered a total of 19 hectares, is today an expansive green fieldthat blends into the surrounding countryside.  

 

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