Although the Petroleum Agency of South Africa was due to brief the Committee, this was postponed because of the unavoidable absence of the Chairperson of that Agency, who was also the Chief Executive Officer of the Department of Mineral Resources.
The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate (the MHSI) presented its Annual Report 2010/11 to the Committee. Although a 24% reduction in fatalities was reported, the industry continued to have concerns, particularly since many of the causes of fatalities repeated themselves year after year. Fall of ground accidents, followed by transportation and machinery, remained the major cause of death and injury. Graphs illustrating comparative statistics from previous years were tabled. It was noted that silicosis was a major health hazard, as the number of silicosis diseases increased by 36 cases when compared to 2009, up to 1 742 in 2010. TB continued to be another serious challenge for the mining industry, particularly in the gold sector, totalling 4 452 case in 2010, and this was exacerbated by HIV and AIDS. One of the major contributors to this was poor living conditions, with miners living in hostels, often with rooms being shared by those who were infected and those who were healthy, whilst many failed to continue taking their medication. Another problem arising from the hostels was that many miners simply did not get sufficient rest, as there were sometimes up to ten of them sharing dormitories, some working different shifts from others. They also tended to be poorly nourished, and both these factors were said to lead to the high accident rate in the 10:00 to 12:00 shift. Although the number of noise-induced hearing loss incidents was reduced, from 1 343 in 2009 to 1 21 in 2010, it was still high, particularly in the gold mining sector.
The MHSI reported that it was intending to bring amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act to strengthen the enforcement provisions, and reinforce certain offences and penalties. Human resources was another challenge, although a Chief Directorate had been established and there was consideration being given to the appointment of legal officers at regional offices. One major problem was the failure rate for Mine Manager Certificates and Engineering Certificate of Competency, even amongst those who had engineering degrees, and the MHSI was trying to establish the cause and take it up with the training institutions. The Inspectorate had trained 9 000 out of the proposed 40 000 health inspectors. The Human Resources Development Plan had been implemented. Challenges around occupational health would be met by the implementation of the Mine Health and Safety Summit Commitments to improve on health, involving a number of departments. Because the quality of data had been a problem, the MHSI was trying to verify the sampling results. Regional offices had been encouraged to engage with the unions on health challenges, and suggest policies. Tools were being developed to detect and prevent rock falls, and transport related incidents and controls. A review of the Mine Health and Safety Act should strengthen the MHSI’s powers, and allow it to strengthen enforcement and set minimum standards. Chief Executive Officers must in future carry out inspections. The MHSI was empowered to, and would continue to close unsafe mines. An analysis was given of the reasons behind transgressions, with the majority due to inappropriate support and poor management.
Members asked about the
Petroleum Agency South Africa: postponement of report briefing
Mr Mthozami Xiphu, Chief Executive Officer, Petroleum Agency South Africa (PASA), apologised for the absence of the Petroleum Agency (PASA) Chairman, Dr Thibedi Ramontja, and said that although the representatives of PASA who were present could present some of the information to the Committee, they could not provide all that may be required.
The Chairperson asked what information they did not have, and whether it had a material impact on the presentation.
Mr Xiphu responded that it was material, as it included information on funding, and shale gas.
Mr Gona noted that Members would prefer to hear the report of the Chairman of PASA as they may wish to ask questions, and suggested that this presentation be postponed.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) asked for an indication on when information on shale gas would be received.
The Chairperson noted that he did not want any speculation on that, and that a new date would be provided for the presentation by PASA at the beginning of the second term.
Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate 2010/11 Annual Report Presentation
Mr David Msiza, Chief Inspector of Mines, Department of Mineral Resources, noted that the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate (MHSI or the Inspectorate) had noticed that the diminishing of gold ore reserves resulted in deepening of shafts and mining of shaft and remnant pillars. This had an impact on safety.
The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate was intended to execute the mandate of the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR or the Department) to safeguard the health and safety of mine employees and people affected by mining activities. Its objectives included reducing mining-related deaths, injuries and ill health through formulating national policy and legislation, providing advice, and applying systems that monitor, audit and enforce compliance in the mining sector (see slide 4 for further details).
Mr Msiza noted that figures in slide 5 (reported above) and also outlined the major contributors to fatalities. were displayed. 30% of the casualties were caused by fall of ground and rock burst, whilst rock falls, fall of material and rolling rocks caused 15% of casualties. A further 15% was due to trackless mobile machinery,10% to railbound equipment, 5% to installation accidents, 9% to machinery generally, and 3% to electrical cause, especially electrocution. 3% of casualties occurred through explosives, mostly underground. Mr Msiza noted that in the previous year, 60 people were underground when a mine manager decided to blast. 6% of casualties fell under the “other” categories.
He then compared the figures from 1984 onwards, for each type of casualty (see attached presentation, slides 7 onwards). Rock related fatalities had previously accounted for about 50% of total fatalities, but this had fallen to 35% between 2008 and 2011. He explained that there was a drop in railbound equipment (RBE) fatalities between 2005 and 2010 and explained that the lines representing the trackless mobile machine (TMM) fatalities crossed with that of RBE in 2007 and 2009, but followed the same pattern in that year.
Most accidents occurred between 10:00 and 12:00. The Inspectorate believed that there was a link to the living conditions. Most of the employees still lived in hostels, sometimes with eight to ten housed in one room, or shared rooms with people doing different shifts, and did not get proper rest. In addition, employees may be poorly nourished and lose concentration.
Between 2003 and 2010, the number of people killed by respiratory diseases (TB, silicosis and others) had been much higher than numbers killed in mine incidents, despite the improvement shown in 2010 (see slide 10 of attached presentation). In 2010, the total number of TB cases, across all commodity sectors, was 4 452. Most TB cases had been reported in the gold sector. The Inspectorate said this was mainly caused by the living conditions of the miners and exposure to dust. No significant improvement was observed between 2009 and 2010.
Annual Medical Reports, which the Inspectorate required all mines to submit, showed that most cases of silicosis also occurred in the gold sector, which in fact reported 18 times more silicosis cases in 2010 than the platinum and gold sectors both put together. The total number of silicosis diseases reported in 2010 was 1 742, an increase of 36 cases from 2009. The gold sector was, in addition, the major contributor in the induced hearing loss (NIHL) diseases. The total number of NIHL diseases had, however, reduced from 1 343 in 2009 to 1 212 in 2010.
A comparison of the fatalities from 2009 and 2010 was then presented (see slide 14 of attached presentation). Fatalities had lessened overall by 24%. 96% of investigations and 68% of the inspections had been completed.
The existing enforcement guidelines had been reviewed after complaints in 2009. The implementation of new guidelines had started in April 2011.
Most fatalities happened in the first two quarters of the year. MHSI came up with an auditing tool on air pollution to make sure that the mines had control measures to prevent people from being exposed to dust and fumes, and also had an auditing tool on noise control. As far as non-occupational diseases were concerned, there were eleven cases reported of people who had collapsed and then passed away. The reasons included epilepsy, diabetes, heart attack. An auditing tool was developed which would monitor employees, to find out how many there were, if they were previously diagnosed with illnesses and whether they had been taking medication.
The Inspectorate then reported on its own human resource development, noting that 83 inspectors attended
Mr Msiza noted that despite these improvements, challenges remained. In response to the challenge of capacity building, a Chief Directorate was established, under Dr L Ndelo. The
Mr Msiza said that the pass rate for Mine Manager Certificates and Engineering Certificate of Competency were very low; at only 5% pass rate in the last year. Some candidates had been attempting to pass these certificates for the past 20 years. Even graduates with engineering degrees were unable to pass, and some had left the industry as a result of their failure. The Inspectorate was determined to find out what the cause of this discrepancy was, and had instituted an Implementation Action Plan to investigate what areas needed improvement, and to work on this with the technikons and universities.
The Inspectorate was aiming to train 40 000 health inspectors, and 9 000 had already been trained. The Human Resources Development Plan had been implemented. 18 bursaries were awarded to engineering students and some interns were working at DMR as well. Moreover, an Implementation Action Plan for the improvement of the pass rate was issued.
The challenges around occupational health would be addressed by the implementation of the Mine Health and Safety Summit Commitments to improve on health including HIV and AIDS (see slide 17 for full details). He explained that this
In addition, with the assistance of service providers, MHSI would be conducting verification of mine sampling results, since it had detected problems with the quality of data submitted by the mines. According to the Mine Health and Safety Act (Act No. 29 of 1996), mines had to monitor the dust exposures of employees, but there was a problem with the accuracy of that data provided. The regional offices had been encouraged to engage with the unions on health challenges, and suggest policies.
Tools on how to detect and prevent rock falls, and transport related incidents and controls were also being developed. A commitment and action plan on this matter was implemented as well. The MHSI had set in process a review of the Mine Health and Safety Act (the Act), so that the Inspectorate would be better placed to strengthen enforcement and set minimum standards. Most of the incidents were similar and could be prevented by technology, such as safety nets and close proximity devices, but mining companies were slow to adopt these, and MHSI wanted to incorporate them into the Act. Although Chief Executive Officers talked of health and safety, Mr Msiza said he knew of some who had never even visited the mines, and therefore could not possibly be properly informed. In future the Inspectorate would expect the CEOs to carry out the investigations, which would carry a serious message to the employees.
Mr Msiza noted that the MHSI was empowered to, and would continue to close mines that were unsafe, as the Inspectors had a discretion to do so.
Mr Msiza proceeded to analyse the transgressions of Section 54 of the Act (see slide 19 for full details). 19% had to do with lack of appropriate support, and 19% were also the general transgressions due to poor housekeeping, material handling and others. 7% were attributed to lack of ventilation, which could lead to an underground explosion and to people getting exposed to dust. 3% was attributed to poor guarding, and 6% to explosives which had not been properly controlled. He indicated that most of the explosives used at ATMs bombing incidents were illegally removed from South African mines. 3% of transgressions had occurred through accidents. He pointed out that many people had unfortunately suffered in order that section 54 be put into force. The 2005 Enforcement Guidelines had been reviewed and the new implementation measures started in April 2011. The revised Guidelines attempted to stop repeat accidents, and eliminate injuries and deaths at the mines. These Guidelines followed a template and had a matrix to guide inspectors in their decision whether to close down the entire mine or parts of the operations, and to decide whether conditions identified could lead to harm, loss of life or ill health. He said it must never be forgotten that the numbers in the statistics were real people, and their families were affected by injuries and deaths.
Although there had been improvements, there were still concerns, and sometimes the mining groups raising the most concerns were the same ones who were the major contributors to accidents.
The Mining Charter was also under review as the equity levels within the mining sector needed improvement.
Mr C Gololo asked about the outcome of a particular case on clinical costs, in which people had claimed compensation for alleged infection with asbestosis. He asked what had been done to address illegal mining, which constituted the biggest cause of deaths. He asked what possibility there was that the mining houses in
Dr L Ndelo, Chief Director, MHSI, noted that there were two asbestosis claims. One had been instituted by an attorney in
Ms F Bikani (ANC) complimented MHSI on the presentation. However, she remarked that the objective should be to enforce compliance. Whilst she acknowledged the improvement in the fatality rates, she said that the rate of diseases and accidents had to be reduced as well, particularly given the improved treatment in other health areas. The Mine Health and Safety Act did not currently empower the Inspectorate enough to achieve a proper improvement, and she commented that to the best of her knowledge, strict sanctions had rarely been applied. She believed that companies should be taken to court if they did not comply, and she asked if this was possible under the current legislation.
Mr Msiza agreed that the laws were sometimes not stringent enough. He said that there was a problem in successfully recommending that prosecutions be instituted, and it was difficult to produce evidence that would stand up in court. This was one of the reasons why MHSI wanted to employ legal advisors.
Ms Bikani questioned the relevance of the comparison between trackless mobile machine and rail bound equipment fatalities on slide 8, and pointed out that neither was acceptable, and that one death was one death too many. Although she noted that 96% of investigations were completed, which was cited as an achievement, she asked what these investigations related to.
Mr Thabo Dube, MHSI, explained that this was seen as an achievement because the target for completion of investigations had been 80%, whereas the MHSI had achieved 96%.
Ms Bikani enquired as to the number of miners infected with HIV.
Ms Bikani asked about the total number of inspectors in the previous year and how this number had improved.
Ms Bikani saw nothing about employee wellness in the presentation and suggested it must be addressed.
Dr Ndelo said that in the mining sector there were primary health care and occupational health centres. Wellness programmes fell within occupational health. Hypertension, diabetes, some diseases were related to obesity: there was a minimum of standards that miners had to meet and conditions needed to be checked. There should be a record of this check, how many people had chronic diseases, how many were controlled, how many were not. Conditions such as epilepsy should actually not be allowed underground.
Ms Bikani asked what MHSI would do about health issues, beyond reporting to the Department of Health, to ensure improvement.
Dr Ndelo responded that the living conditions and the way workers were transported down into the mines contributed a lot to the higher rate of TB and silicosis. Another problem that caused an increase in the rates of TB was that some people gave up taking their medication. In order to get proper statistics, it was necessary to follow up on these issues as well.
Ms Bikani asked why there were so few rock engineers in
Mr Dube responded that rock engineers were one of scarce-skill professions that MHSI was seeking.
Ms Bikani asked for more explanation on the figures of 110 and 85 decibels quoted, in relation to noise exposure.
Dr Ndelo explained that no equipment in the mines was allowed to produce a noise of over 110 decibels. However, the level of personal exposure to noise was set at no more than 85 decibels. The guidelines on noise had been revised by the Advisory Council. The question was not so much the percentage of loss hearing that was attributed to noise, but prevention of exposure to excessive noise.
The Chairperson called for clarification as to how a person could only be exposed to 85 decibels, yet the machine emitted up to 110 decibels.
Dr Ndelo said that 110 decibels meant that the equipment used must not exceed that limit of noise. Mines therefore, in the first place, to use equipment that had lower sound emissions. Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs), such as ear muffs, would further reduce the levels of noise that would reach a worker’s ears.
Mr Msiza added that there was agreement with the industry that any equipment which was to be procured in future for use at the mines should be less than 85 decibels, although the limit of 110 decibels was agreed upon some time ago. Most of the equipment used underground, especially in a confined space, produced 110 decibels. This meant that mines used PPE for reduction of noise heard by miners. Some mines were silencing the underground ventilation, and other devices were also used. Research was being done on lowering noise levels.
Mr Lorimer asked whether any study had been done, or was planned, on the direct correlation between living conditions and working accidents.
Mr Msiza said that there had been research showing that poor living conditions were amongst the causes of tuberculosis.
Mr Lorimer asked for the reason why tuberculosis was more widespread in gold mines.
Mr Dube added that in some areas – such as the coal industry - there were improvements in the number of diseases recorded, but there appeared still to be problems in the gold mining sector.
Mr Lorimer asked whether a report was expected on the stoppages within the framework of section 54, and, if so, when this would come out.
Mr Dube said that MHSI was in the process of finalizing a report about the concerns of application of section 54, a lot of discussion had taken place.
Mr Lorimer asked how often a mine would be inspected, pointing out that almost one third of the mines did not meet deadlines. He asked if this was due to a lack of inspectors, and whether accidents were attributable to the lack of inspection.
Mr Msiza admitted to lack of inspectorate capacity, but said it was improving. DMR had also advertised to try to attract more staff, but it was somewhat difficult. An inspector with the DMR would earn about R650 000 per year, but a private company could pay salaries of up to R1.2 million per year. DMR could not compete for the best staff. The short term objective was to tap into the available potential and devise a strategy, but longer term it was intended to work with the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA) to ensure that there were enough engineers and that they did not leave the mining sector.
Mr Lorimer asked whether the falling off in uranium year production on mining and whether it was, at least partly, attributable to the increased safety standards.
Mr H Schmidt (DA) noted that page 20 of the 2010/11 Annual Report quoted a figure of 481000 people employed in the mines of
Mr Msiza said this figure was correct.
Mr Schmidt said that, despite an apparent increase in mine stoppages and issuing of 295 notices under section 54 (as reported on page 78 of the Annual Report), there did not appear to be any significant reduction in fatalities.
Mr Schmidt wanted clarity on how the land use applications (as reported on page 76 of the Annual Report) around township developments, mining and prospecting rights and permits, mine closures, environmental management, and complaints related to the function of the MHSI. He also wanted to know about the likely impact of a
Mr Msiza replied that there were legacy issues in regard to the
Mr M Sonto (ANC) asked about the contribution of mining to employment.
Mr Msiza responded that it was necessary to find a balance between employment and technology, so that no technology which would take the jobs of 500 would be employed.
Mr Sonto referred to slides 6 and 19, and asked how mining companies would improve their mining techniques, especially since rock falls still constituted a major contributor to fatalities. South African mines were known for serious non-compliance. He suggested that any gross negligence or serious lack of compliance that resulted in deaths should be criminalised, emphasising that there was no excuse, and this would bring down the level of accidents.
Mr Msiza agreed and said MHSI was considering a change of the legislation, to criminalise negligence that led to fatalities.
Mr Sonto heard something about an intention to honour the memories of those who had passed away on duty in the mines.
Mr Msiza thought there was already a flag, as far as he knew.
Mr Sonto noted that it was difficult to determine who ex-mine workers were, and this was particularly problematic as many would only show symptoms of diseases they had contracted in the mines after several years. He asked what DMR was doing about this problem.
Mr Msiza said that MHSI was working with the Department of Health to make a database of all employees who had worked at the mines.
Mr Sonto also commented on the corrective measures and challenges, as outlined in slide 16, including collaboration with MQA to enhance skills development, but asked if the families of miners living in the rural areas were considered for skills development as well.
Mr Dube said that MQA was looking for only those types of qualifications that were required by the industry.
Mr E Lucas (IFP) agreed with the recommendation to employ legal advisors.
Mr Lucas said illegal mining was very serious and noted that mining houses were ill-prepared during a visit by the Committee, and the Chairperson would not permit the Members to visit those mines, out of concerns for safety.
Mr Lucas condemned the ongoing rock falls that resulted in fatalities and was strongly critical of mistakes that allowed a blast that injured anyone. He said that another cause for concern was that fact that safety measures were perhaps ignored by the need for employees to reach their daily quota.
Ms N Ndelo (former member of the Committee) commented that in 2010 she had already heard of equipment at a remote site that could determine underground activity and suggested that this be obtained.
Mr Dube noted that seismic activity was already being monitored and that equipment over the next two years would integrate this ability.
The Chairperson asked whether any delay was expected because of lack of funding.
Mr Dube answered in the negative. The Mine Health and Safety Council provided the funding.
Mr Schmidt questioned what the correct benchmark was.
Mr Msiza replied that the percentage was derived from the injury rate per million hours worked.
The Chairperson commented that the current fatalities rate of 123 per annum was too high. The Committee encouraged MHSI to work on reducing this, and said that the mining companies must be strongly urged to comply with the Mine Health and Safety Summit Action Plans Zero Harm resolutions. He agreed that it was desirable to amend current legislation, so that those found to be negligent should be held directly accountable and criminally responsible for deaths. He noted that the
Other Committee Business
The Chairperson tabled the minutes of 22 February 2012. He commented that Dr Ramunja had joined the meeting late. The Chairperson asked that the Minutes on page 3, in connection with the creation of 140 000 jobs by 2020, reflect the discussion in the meeting, and particularly that the Committee was concerned about the low figure estimated for the mining industry.
He also commented that constraints on growth were mentioned, as was the team of researchers, and the question whether nationalisation was also a binding concern. He noted no comments on page 5.
In respect of page 6 it was noted that DMR should submit report on progresses made and the implementation plans for the beneficiation strategy, and should also brief the Committee on improved implementation plans for beneficiation.
The minutes were adopted, subject to revision.
The Minutes of 29 February 2012 were discussed. Typographical and grammatical errors on page 3 would be dealt with by the Committee Secretary. Members agreed to adopt the minutes, as revised.
Ms Schmidt moved for the adoption of the minutes, and the motion was seconded by Mr Sonto.
The Chairperson noted that oversight would be conducted in the
The meeting was adjourned.
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