Mine Health and Safety Council Strategic Plan 2010/13

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Mineral Resources and Energy

15 April 2010
Chairperson: Mr F Gona (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Committee was briefed by the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) on its function, progress and targets for the coming years. The Strategic Plan was not covered in detail, and would be addressed at the next meeting. The MHSC noted that the targets included elimination of fatalities and injuries by 2013, along with elimination of silicosis and noise induced hearing loss. The objectives included promoting a Health and Safety Culture in the mining industry, conducting regular and timeous feedback, providing advice and reliable information on occupational health and safety, influencing legislation, and strengthening tripartite partnerships. MHSC research priorities were centred around investigation into rockfalls, rock bursts, airborne particulate matter, legislative topics, machinery and transportation, skills development in occupational health and safety and human factors. The Leadership Summit Action Plan was outlined. The medium term budget was set out, noting that research accounted for 61% of expenses.

Members questioned the turnover of staff and collection rates. Members were concerned whether the drop in budget meant that the MHSC could not achieve its targets. Members made the point strongly that lifestyle was affected directly by accommodation, especially the hostels, since they provided conditions conducive to the spread of HIV/Aids and TB. Although the MHSC stated that hostels should be eliminated by 2014, Members pointed out that some new mines were still using them, that there had in fact been little change, that the Chamber of Mines seemed to regard accommodation and health as state responsibilities and that drastic improvements were necessary. In answer to MHSC’s assertion that this was not directly within the ambit of the MHSC, the Committee was severely critical, and did not feel that the MHSC was doing enough to address the issues and believed that it should not be offering the explanation that these were not its direct responsibility. They stated that the MHSC could not claim, on the one hand, that it was trying to improve lifestyles of miners, while claiming that responsibility for this lay elsewhere. The Committee wished the MHSC to revert to it, with more definite answers and a united plan, before the Committee could consider the MHSC’s strategic plan.

Members also enquired as to the health conditions set out to ensure the safety of pregnant women miners, and noted that MHSC needed to do more work on this issue. Members asked when the MHSC would reach its target for gravity-induced fall of ground reduction, who determined whether or not there was a danger, and what should be done. MHSC suggested that a separate presentation on this would be useful. Members were concerned that skills development did not appear to be a priority, and questioned the roles of the Mining Qualification Authority, which should be asked to give a separate presentation, and the MHSC. The MHSC was asked to provide details of the research programmes, a full list of proposed legislation and a detailed organogram with the details and packages of each category of staff. Members were critical of the MHSC’s comment on the targets for reducing exposure to noise, particularly since the targets were already above the legal levels of exposure, and took issue with the assertion that the duration of exposure, not the decibel level, was the main issue. The Committee stressed that it would like to hear more tangible results, set timeframes, a report on water contamination in Grootvlei and Orkney, what recommendations could be made to the Minister, and that more synergy between members of the MHSC was needed. Generally, the Committee believed that the MHSC needed to re-think the issues and present a less defensive and more activist stance. The MHSC was therefore asked to give a further presentation on 21 April.

Meeting report

Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) Strategic Plan 2010 – 2013
Ms Pontsho Maruping, Chief Executive Officer, Mine Health and Safety Council, tabled the attached presentation, and took Members through the mandate and the organisational structure of the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC). Health and Safety targets were described, with industry targets for fatalities and injuries being set at zero. She noted that continuous improvements were marked to hopefully culminate in the complete elimination of fatalities by 2013. The elimination of silicosis and Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHLS) were also set as targets for 2013.

She then compared the numbers of fatalities and injuries in the industry from 1984 (a total of 780) to 2009 (a total of 180). From a customer/stakeholder perspective, objectives, measures and three year targets were outlined.  These objectives consisted of promoting a Health and Safety Culture in the mining industry, conducting regular and timeous feedback, providing advice and reliable information on occupational health and safety (OHS), influencing legislation, and strengthening tripartite partnerships. Targets with regard to the internal perspective, learning and growth perspective and financial perspective were provided.  The South African Mine Safety and Health Administration (SAMSHA) initiative was alluded to. MHSC research priorities were centred around investigation into rockfalls, rock bursts, airborne particulate matter, legislative topics, machinery and transportation, skills development in OHS and human factors.

The Leadership Summit Action Plan was outlined. It hoped to ensure the implementation of summit commitments, establish a centre of excellence for research implementation and capacity, improve OHS capacity in partnership with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA), reduce illiteracy in the mining sector, increase scarce skills and improve the monitoring of occupational diseases.

The Medium-term budget overview was provided. The total income for 2010/11 was R72 211 000. Research Expenditure would make up 61% of expenses, staff costs accounted for 19%, operating expenses for 10% administrative expenses for 6% and promotion of health and safety, and depreciation accounted for 2% each. Therefore, R15.67 million would be allocated to summit outcomes, R17.98 million to safety and R 11.24 million to health.

Mr E Marais (DA) said that he took it for granted that slide 8 referred to legal mines. He asked, with reference to slide 12, what the turnover of staff was for the past two years. He asked what percentage of revenue was collected for the previous year.

Mr Mthokozisi Zondi, Chairperson, MHSC, replied that slide 8 referred to legal mines.

Ms Maruping replied that revenue collection had been a problem in the past, and that they had collected R47 million last year, some of which were outstanding levies. Collection rates were currently sitting at between 65-70%. The MHSC was working closely with the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) around the data that they used to collect levies. In some cases it turned out that new mine owners had to pay outstanding levies owing by previous owners. Part of the assistance being received this year was from the Chamber of Mines (CoM), as it was helping the MHSC to get the levies.

Ms N Mathibela(ANC) asked about the budget variance shown on slide 13. She noted the drop in budget to 5% in 2013, and asked whether, in light of this, the MHSC would achieve most of what it wished to achieve, since the figures were declining over the years. She asked how far the MSHC was with the Silicosis Programme, in relation to those who had already been infected with silicosis. She requested data on skills in the DMR with regards to reducing illiteracy.  With relation to the comments on lifestyle, on slide 21, she asked how far the MHSC had gone in looking at accommodation, as people with HIV/AIDS who then contracted TB was closely related to the state of mining accommodation.

Ms Maruping replied that the budget variation referred to the set budget, and how much the MHSC expected to vary expenditure according to that.

Mr Navin Singh, Chief Research and Operations Officer, MHSC, replied that the current Silicosis Programme was aimed at prevention in current contract workers. For those who had already contracted the illness, the mining companies had a treatment and compensation process.

Mr Zondi said that the literacy figures sat with the MQA, not with the MHSC.

Mr Zondi added that he appreciated the problem of the spread of TB in hostels and said that at the Mining Summit, the DMR was hoping to set a target, in conjunction with the mining companies, to eliminate hostels by 2014.

Mr Mziwakhe Nhlapo, Labour Convenor, MHSC, National Union of Mineworkers, added that he did not want to paint a picture of complete ‘doom and gloom’, but that on the issue of HIV/AIDS, there was not much change. The Chamber of Mines seemed to take the stance that accommodation and health were seen as a State responsibility.

Mr M Sonto (ANC) asked whether the accommodation at mines, and the lifestyle, had changed from what it used to be, and if so, to what extent. He asked whether there were women at mines now. He asked what follow up strategy the MHSC had for people who had contracted diseases at mines and had then left.

Mr Singh replied that there was no research on the follow up of those who had contracted diseases and left the employment of mines, but that he thought that the mines had a compensation process.

Mr Nhlapo stated that previously mineworkers’ lifestyles were characterised by segregation, racism and highly hazardous working conditions. Nowadays there was still racism, and the working conditions could be improved by the mining companies. This was not as bad as it had been, but could still be improved dramatically. The required a collaborative effort, not only from the DMR and mines, but also from the Department of Labour (DoL) and the Department of Health (DoH).

Mr V Magagula (ANC) asked what MHSC were doing to make sure that women were protected when underground, especially if they were pregnant.

Mr Singh replied that with regards to pregnancy, the MHSC was working on a mandatory code of conduct that should cover the issue.

Mr Marais asked what the standard procedure for pregnant women working at mines was and how far into their pregnancy they were still allowed to go underground.

Ms Lettie La Grange, Employer Representative: Anglo Platinum, MHSC, replied that it was captured in law. The provision stated that when a woman was identified as pregnant, she should not be exposed to any danger.

The Chairperson asked at what stage of pregnancy the mines stopped their women employees from working underground, and what alternatives the mines would offer these employees. He added that some women concealed their pregnancy to prevent victimisation from their employers.

Mr Zondi replied that MHSC did not have fixed timeframes and acknowledged that it needed to do work on this issue.

The Chairperson stressed that the MHSC needed to get to work on this issue, as it was imperative to take into account the safety of pregnant women.

Mr Marais added that what was stated in law was not necessarily followed in practice.

Mr Magagula asked why so much money was being allocated to summits.

The Chairperson noted that the MHSC had mentioned legal exposure levels, with regard to silicosis, and asked what the basis was for expecting that there would be no new cases of silicosis from 2013.

Mr Singh replied that even though people would still be working in mines, mechanisms and protective processes would be put in place to mitigate exposure.
The Chairperson asked whether this meant that the MHSC would be prescribing the types of equipment and engineering processes used.

Mr Singh replied that an answer to this would be forthcoming from the results of the research being conducted.

The Chairperson stated that the MHSC had mentioned gravity-induced fall of ground as a cause of injury and fatality, and asked when the MHSC would reach its target around this, as there was no mention of research on this point under the Key Research Themes. As this had been a prime cause of fatalities, there was a need to know how the MHSC was dealing with the issue.

Mr Singh replied that the Rockfall Programme did look at a three-phased approach, which consisted of monitoring, design and evaluation and legislation. Data could not be released yet, as the research had not been concluded.

Mr Zondi added that it was just an issue of terminology, as gravity induced fall of ground was covered by rockbursts and rockfalls.

The Chairperson asked who determined whether or not there was a danger, and what should be done. Rockfalls were an industry hazard, and these needed to be eliminated. Such elimination would impact on maximum profit and target bonuses, but it would save lives. He asked whether the MHSC was concerned about maintaining maximum profit for reasons of keeping companies profits high or for keeping workers target bonuses high.

Ms Maruping added that the MHSC should perhaps present on all of its projects around Rockfalls. One such programme looked identifying such threats.

The Chairperson agreed.

Ms Mathibela stated that even though hostels were stated as being targeted for elimination by 2014, new mines were still building hostels. She asked whether the DMR or the MHSC were actually looking at this.

The Chairperson asked the MHSC what its position on hostels was.

Mr Zondi replied that this was not directly in the ambit of the MHSC and that it was being dealt with by the relevant spheres of the DMR.

The Chairperson stated there were certain matters that the Committee could not support. The MHSC, while talking about lifestyle on the one hand, was referring the accountability for accommodation to another party. Hostels had a direct correlation with the spread of pulmonary diseases, and that was one of the issues contained in, and cited as a major issue, by the MHSC presentation. The same applied to HIV/AIDS. The existence of hostels perpetuated sex workers visiting the mines. The MHSC could not say that this was not its responsibility.

Ms Maruping replied that the reason why pulmonary disease and HIV/AIDS and TB were included in the MHSC’s programme was that these issues were raised at the summit. She had pointed out that the MHSC needed to work with other entities to achieve targets. The MHSC undertook a research programme to review the housing of workers three years ago and the intention was to formulate a plan of minimum requirements. Currently, the DMR was developing a guideline on housing, and for this reason the MHSC did not want to duplicate functions.

Ms Masekoa Nkhesani, Occupational Medicine Expert, DMR, added that the MHSC was in consultation with the DMR and that the housing guidelines had been gazetted by the Minister of Mineral Resources.

Mr Sonto reiterated that the Committee had difficulty in accepting the stance of the MHSC, who claimed that it was trying to improve lifestyles of miners, but would not wish to talk about certain matters, claiming that they resided with other units. Ms Nkhesani’s input was welcome, as it showed that at least the units were talking to each other. However, the Committee, in its oversight function, would not like to hear that MHSC’s intention was to improve lifestyles, but that it could not do anything because it was not its responsibility.

The Chairperson added that the reason the Committee was stressing this issue was that Members did not want to leave the House with the view that the DMR or the MHSC wanted to perpetuate segregation and the abominable migrant labour systems , along with the appalling system of hostel accommodation. Members could not accept this at all as it was a perpetuation of racial stereotypes, and a State organ would not wish to be a party to this. He wanted to know what the MHSC’s position was, as he felt that hostels were inhumane and the root problem. He asked the Chamber of Mines to address this position. He maintained that the hostel system was a cornerstone of apartheid, and if the Chamber of Mines was not going to change this voluntarily, then the Committee would legislate for it, or invoke Section 47 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA). He added that white workers were not subject to hostel accommodation.

Dr Thuthula Balfour-Kaipa, Employer Representative, Chamber of Mines, MHSC, stated that she dealt mainly with health issues, but that the Chamber of Mines, in its interaction on TB and HIV/AIDS, had engaged with the Department of Health. Before companies could receive licenses, they had to satisfy certain requirements, including around housing. An improvement had been made, but targets were still under review. It was noted that some companies were able to move faster than others, but that the elimination of hostels was indeed happening, and that things were not as bad as Mr Nhlapo made them out to be.

The Chairperson stated that the MHSC needed to establish the true facts and give the Committee a satisfactory answer. If the MHSC could not do this, then the delegates must go back and establish their position and subsequently present this to the Committee, before presenting the full Strategic Plan to the Committee during the next meeting. If the MHSC did not do this, the Committee would not approve its Strategic Plan. This was a serious matter and if the MHSC was deadlocked, then it should notify the Committee, which possessed powers to deal with deadlocks, including invoking Section 47 of the MPRDA.

Mr Zondi replied that the MHSC would like to be given the opportunity to convene and then table its position to the Committee.

The Chairperson accepted this and added that this needed to be done before the Committee considered the MHSC’s Strategic Plan.

Ms F Bikani (ANC) stated that there was no Human Resources Management (HRM) manager, and that the budget seemed to prioritise research over actual skills development. It was not clear what the MHSC did or did not do to bring out skills development in occupational health, and skills development did not seem to be a priority for the MHSC.

Ms Maruping replied that as the MHSC was a small entity, the HRM department was composed of one person. In answer to the focus of research, she pointed out that in every instance of the MHSC speaking of skills development, it recognised that it was necessary to impact on people’s understanding in order to improve health and safety. The MQA dealt with skills, and as such had the budget for skills development. The MHSC did not have such a budget. However, MHSC worked closely with the MQA, which implemented skills development. The MQA sat on the MHSC board. There was indeed a huge focus on skills development in the MHSC, but the actual implementation side sat with the MQA.

Ms Bikani requested that the MQA then should come before the Committee and present on its skills development strategy.

The Chairperson asked who the MQA reported to and asked who funded it, as it was not included in either the DMR or MHSC budgets.

Ms Maruping replied that the MQA reported to the DMR and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). The MQA was funded by DHET.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee needed to discuss the issue of who the MQA reported to at some stage.

Mr Marais stated that he would like feedback on the ten themes of research mentioned around safety and health. With reference to point two, on slide four, he wished to know how many pieces of legislation relating to health the MHSC put forward to the Minister during the previous five year term, and whether any was put forward during the last 12 months.

Ms Maruping replied that MHSC could provide the details of the research programmes at the next meeting. She asked whether Members wanted to have a written report. She also noted that a full list of the legislation would be submitted, and added that three pieces of legislation were submitted during the past year.

Mr Singh added that MHSC had not submitted any health related submissions yet but that these were being looked at, and were in various stages of completion.

Mr Nhlapo stated that labour was highly sensitised to these issues and that some of these legislative submissions had been debated on for ten years, partly due to delaying tactics from the Chamber of Mines. This needed to be expedited and finalised.

The Chairperson stated that he did have a list of proposed pieces of legislation from the DMR and that these would come before the Committee. He added that the Committee did have the right to initiate legislation on its own, but would wait for the recommendations from the MHSC.

Mr Marais asked whether the research expenditure on slide 23 was correct and what the number and cost of staff was.

Mr Maruping replied that it was correct. The cost was 61% of the total of R72 million.

Mr Singh replied that the budget represented 28 staff members at a cost of R13.8 million, and was set out on page 18 of the Strategic Plan. Out of the total of 28 vacancies, so far 24 people were employed.

Mr Marais requested a detailed organogram with the details and packages of each person employed. 

The Chairperson asked whether this was perhaps too much detail.

Mr Marais stated that he did not think that this was too much detail, as there were only 24 people employed and that he wanted to know exactly what these 24 people did.

Ms Bikani supported Mr Marais’ request.

Mr Singh replied that R465 000 was the annual package amount.

The Chairperson asked the MHSC to just provide the different package categories and the numbers of people in those categories, instead of information on each individual.

Ms Bikani stated that she would like the Chief Financial Officer of MHSC to brief the Committee.

The Chairperson stated that all of this would be covered when MHSC came back to present its Strategic Plan document. He added that the core function of the MHSC was to ensure that the mining industry provided healthy and safe conditions of work. The current presentation did not include any milestones, only broad statements with a lack of clear targets. The MHSC needed to be specific. He asked whether the 110 dB (A) exposure targets set out for 2013 fell below the legal limit of noise exposure, and whether asbestosis had been dealt with completely, as nothing had been mentioned about it.

The Chairperson also noted that no targets nor budgeting for inspections of mines were set out in the presentation. As the MHSC was a tripartite structure it was not only government’s responsibility to provide funds. He therefore requested that the contribution from the mining companies be set out. He asked whether there was a commitment from mining companies to respond to what needed to be done. 

Mr Zondi replied that the mining industry had set a target of zero for injuries and fatalities, in terms of safety and health. The MHSC was expecting a decrease of at least 20% per annum up until 2013. With regards to noise, the current legal limit for exposure was 85 dB (A), but the level of 110 dB (a) was used because equipment emitted noise in excess of the legal limit. He added that inspection targets were set by the DMR and that it was all covered by the DMR in its Strategic Plan. Asbestosis was not an issue as there were no more asbestos mines; therefore there was no legal limit for exposure.

The Chairperson replied that the MHSC targets were effectively contrary to the law, and asked how the Committee could be expected to approve this. This was of even greater concern since Mr Zondi was aware of the legal limit. He noted that the equipment was irrelevant; people and their exposure were the key issue. The MHSC should be telling the Committee when it intended to achieve legal compliance, and would not approve anything until this had been done.

Ms La Grange responded that the MHSC could provide specific targets as there was a process that could be tracked. She added that the legal limit for exposure was set for individual exposure. However, when this related to equipment, even a normal truck was louder than 85dB (A). The 85 dB (A) referred not to the exact noise, but the duration of exposure.

The Chairperson stated that Ms La Grange had read the sentence to emphasise machinery. A person who operated a 110 dB (A) drill was exposed to 110 dB (A). The duration was not the issue. The legislation was very clear. Last year the committee was told that deafness amongst miners was increasing. The level proposed as a target exceeded legal levels, and needed to be revised. 

Ms Bikani referred to slides 10 to 13 and requested that the MHSC furnish the Committee with actual figures and not percentages.

Ms Maruping stated that the activities in the leadership summit directed by the mining companies included looking at specific measures of adoption through MARSH. The Chamber of Mines had budgeted R12 million for MARSH adoption. Once the right standard was determined, the mining companies would have to foot the bill, in terms of getting up to standard. With regards to the presentation of percentages rather than figures, she said that in some cases percentages were unavoidable, as they represented unknown future figures, and percentages of those unknown figures would be used in the various programmes.

The Chairperson stated that in addition to hearing the broad strategy, the Committee was interested in actual outcomes and wanted tangible results. Research could not be open-ended, with no timeframes. He added that the Committee had received disturbing news about development in Grootvlei and Orkney around states of health and hostels. There were reports of water contamination, to the extent that the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) had put out advertisements requesting anyone with information on contamination due to mining to come forward. At Grootvlei, the water table had been contaminated. As this could not be allowed, the MHSC’s reaction or intervention was requested. Silence amounted to tacit support.

Mr Zondi asked whether he could come back to this issue, in his capacity as a DMR official with the rest of the Department.

Ms Bikani stated that it seemed that there was no synergy between members of the MHSC and that if this was the case, the Committee was unlikely to obtain any concrete answers from the delegation.

The Chairperson agreed with this sentiment, but invited the MHSC to respond.

Ms Maruping replied that the MHSC was an advisory body, not a regulatory body. As such it did not implement regulations, but the DMR did this. In this case it seemed as if regulations needed to be enforced. All the MHSC could do was advise the Minister.

Mr Sonto said that it was clear, from the mandate, that MHSC did have an advisory mandate. However, if it lacked the necessary power, it should not be looking at health and safety over research. He added that this was an exercise in futility. In some issues it was impossible for the MHSC to dodge responsibility. If its advice to the Minister was not accorded due weight, then there was no point in having the MHSC. Water pollution was a national crisis and the MHSC should advise the Minister on this. The MHSC needed to make its research actually achieve something.

Mr Patrick Hlabizulu, Labour Representative, NUM, MHSC, tendered an apology at a certain level. One aspect of the presentation talked about tripartite relations. It was the labour force who would get injured. He noted that although the various parties would indeed need to discuss certain issues, it was true that the components did things separately. National Union of Mineworkers had held meetings over HIV/AIDS. In the industry, health and safety were relegated to a junior level.

Ms Bikani stressed that the MHSC needed to come back with a clear, unified report and that, bearing in mind what Mr Hlabizulu had said, perhaps the situation needed to be looked at again. The MHSC’s priorities did not seem to be in line with what government desired.

The Chairperson agreed and asked whether the MHSC was constrained as to how it could advise the Minister, as the mine at Grootvlei was posing a health risk. If the MHSC was ‘hamstrung’, it needed to say so.

Ms La Grange replied that the Mine Health and Safety Act provided a definition of “health” as defined by “occupational safety”, and that this definition excluded community health.

The Chairperson stated that at Grootvlei the pumping out of contaminated water had been stopped. The contamination had directly affected those living at the hostels, who were still workers, and as such Ms La Grange’s statement had no bearing.

Mr Sonto asked whether the mine was not responsible for the area that it had polluted.

Mr Zondi replied that there was an intergovernmental task team that was looking at water pumping from mines.

Mr Nhlapo suggested that the MHSC’s answers were not adequate and that it seemed that they were shifting responsibility, as the Committee was targeting consistent issues. He thought the MHSC needed to take a step back and reflect on these issues. There was a need to stop being defensive and take a decision.

Mr Sonto agreed completely with Mr Nhlapo.

The Chairperson agreed that the MHSC should follow the course of action suggested, taking into account all the matters raised. It should give a further presentation and answer to the Committee before the Strategic Plan consideration and budget Vote consideration, on 21 April 2010.

The meeting was adjourned.


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