Mine Health & Safety Council 2012 Strategic plan briefing, with Deputy Minister; Asbestos Relief Trust reports on asbestosis

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Mineral Resources and Energy

09 May 2012
Chairperson: Mr F Gona (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Godfrey Oliphant, was welcomed to the meeting. The Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) presented its strategic plans for 2012/13. It was stressed, at the outset, that there had been a review of the legislation and the MHSC would also be planning visits to higher education institutes to enhance exposure to and awareness of mine health issues. The main mandates of the MHSC were concerned with giving advice to the Minister, and research. It was noted that fatalities and injuries were decreasing, and the MHSC was aiming for a target of zero harm in the sector, through its four operational committees. The objectives and main themes of each of these were outlined, and the MHSC was concerned with setting up sound systems from which to operate. Members noted the references to “zero harm” but commented that there were still a number of injuries happening continuously, whilst one Member said that the figures presented needed to be compared with the mining outputs to assess whether there really was an improvement in numbers of accidents against work being done. Members also referred to recent Constitutional Court decisions and asked whether the legislation was to be amended, and how the MHSC would address issues raised. Members also wanted to see time frames for the various plans, to get more details on how the objectives were to be achieved, and questioned if there was collaboration with the Institute for Geoscience, and how the amendment of section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act had impacted upon reduction of accidents.  Members voted to adopt the Report and said that they would be monitoring implementation of the strategic plans.

The Kgalagadi Relief Trust (KRT), on behalf of itself and the Asbestos Relief Trust (ADT) noted that these trusts operated in Northern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Free State, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana, and aimed to pay compensation to those suffering from asbestos-related diseases (ARDs). The four stages of ARD were explained. Almost 16 000 applications were received, but only 30% of the claimants were entitled to receive compensation, since many false claims were laid. Of these people, 89% had already been compensated, 3% of claims were approved and 8% were under investigation. The Relief Trusts were also actively involved in social projects, and were attempting to implement, with other bodies, the recommendations from the National Asbestos Summit of 1998 and further meetings in 2009. These had recommended rehabilitation of mines, tightening of the regulations to lessen the use of asbestos, equality in compensation, and the need to improve health services in communities, as well as create a national database and undertake education in the field. Members wondered if there was a need for further legislation, questioned media reports about a community claiming that it had not been compensated, asked for details on the medical figures, the shortage of medical practitioners, and the relationship with the Department of Mineral Resources. The Deputy Minister described the situation in Kuruman, which was receiving attention.

Members adopted the Committee’s report on the strategic plans, and noted the recommendation that the Department establish a compliance unit. Members also noted their intention to visit Virginia and Bloemfontein and to table an official report on the cancellation of the visit to Kimberley.

Meeting report

The Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Mr Godfrey Oliphant, was welcomed to the meeting, along with other presenters.

Mine Health and Safety Council 2012/2013 Strategic plan briefing.
Mr David Msiza, Chairperson, Mine Health and Safety Council, stated that in November 2011, the state, labour and the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC or the Council) had met to review a number of issues around health and safety in the mining sector. There were already attempts to improve the legislation and the health and safety of miners. There would be visits undertaken to higher education institutions to enhance exposure to mine health issues 

Mr Navin Singh, Chief Research and Operations Officer, MHSC, presented the strategic plan of the Council for 2012/13. The mandate of the MHSC was mainly to advise the Minister in regard to health and safety in mining, as well as to oversee research related to health and safety in the mining sector. He stated that fatalities and injuries were decreasing, which was a good indication of the progress of the Council towards its goal of zero harm in the mining sector. He explained that the Council was based on equal representation from different sectors, and there were four operational committees: namely, the Mining Regulations Advisory Committee (MRAC); Mining Occupational Health Advisory Committee (MOHAC); Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee (SIMRAC) and Mining Industry HIV/AIDS and TB Advisory Committee (MITHAC). The Council adopted plans, human resource strategies and set processes to implementation of its objectives. He outlined the objectives, vision, themes and mission of the Council (see attached presentation for full details). He noted, in respect of human resources, that good staff were core to the implementation of the strategic objectives, focusing on research and communication of outcomes to other regions, as well as strengthening of governance and Risk Monitoring. The processes strategies were to set up key systems, and here he noted that financial systems, supply chain management systems, human resource systems, ICT infrastructure and systems and research management plans and procedures were all in place. In conclusion, he emphasised again that the mission of the MHSC was to promote the culture of occupational health and safety (OHS) in the mining industry, by striving towards zero harm on all health and safety issues and legislation.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) said that the assertion that there was progress towards zero harm was not appropriate, and pointed to the number of injuries that were still continuously occurring in the mining sector.

Mr H Schmidt (DA) said that there was a shift from the 1995 approach, which he expanded upon a shift from a cooperative to a more complex approach. He indicated that page 2 of the report indicated a drop in the figures, but he said there was no real correlation between the figures quoted and the production figures.

Mr Schmidt noted the recent Constitutional Court judgments in relation to the mining sector and asked if the MHSC was intending to amend the legislation to bring it in line with these.

Mr Msiza responded that the MHSC would certainly learn from the lessons of the past. He conceded that the same incidents were still occurring. However, the Constitutional Court judgment had led to the situation where the MHSC was collaborating better with the Departments of Health and of Labour.

Mr Singh stated that Acid Mine Drainage was being dealt with, but there were still health-related issues that were being studied.

Ms F Bikani (ANC) was not happy with the lack of timeframes, and wanted to see the progress on a quarterly basis. She did not think that the Committee was able to judge its progress on the basis of annual figures and one meeting alone.

The Chairperson referred to page 9 of the presentation, and asked how the Council was going to achieve its objectives. He wondered how far there was collaboration with the Institute for Geo-Science to reach the objectives, and asked if section 54 had been really implemented, whether it had improved the industry, and how cases had been handled.

Mr Msiza responded that section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (the Act) mainly gave power to inspectors to take steps to prevent harm. Since that section had been in force, there had been marked improvements. The fatality rate had dropped by 86%, and there was a 60% improvement in machinery-related incidents. The main point was that since this section was implemented, there had been a change in attitude of companies. Some of the litigation issues were withdrawn.

Mr Schmidt said again that he would like to see the production figures, along with the numbers of fatalities and injuries, in order to assess whether there had been real progress in improving mine safety.

Mr Godfrey Oliphant, Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, stated that ideally mine health and mine safety should be regarded as one inseparable issue. He asserted that most issues raised by the Committee should be looked holistically, and that the approach taken by MHSC was one that was modelled upon research conducted in China, where significant improvements had been made.

Ms N Ngele (ANC) asked how long the project was going to take

Mr Singh said that one of the projects was a two year project, and it was necessary for this period taking into consideration the software and development construction.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee would monitor the operation of the strategic plan.

Members voted to adopt the Report.

Conference on Prevalence of Asbestosis: Report back by Asbestos Relief Trust
Mr Phiroshaw Camay, Chairperson, Kgalagadi Relief Trust (KRT), gave an overview of prevalence of asbestosis and asbestos-related disease, on behalf of his own organisation and the Asbestos Relief Trust (ART).

He noted that the main areas in which these trusts operated were Northern Cape, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Eastern Cape, Free State, Lesotho, Swaziland and Botswana. The Trusts had offices in  Mpumalanga, Northern Cape and Limpopo.

He then explained that the asbestos-related diseases (ARD) for which compensation could be claimed were ARD1, which manifested itself with pleural thickening and asbestosis,  with mild impairment of the lungs, ARD2, where there was severe lung functioning impairment, ARD3, which was where lung cancer due to asbestos was found, and ARD4 which manifested as mesothelioma. The Trusts provided for compensation for environmental diseases as well, and the compensation that they offered was higher than schemes operated by the state.

He reported that more than 15 900 applications came through the Relief Trusts, but 70% of these claims did not meet the medical criteria, mostly because people were pretending to be suffering from disease when in fact they were reasonably healthy. 30% of the applicants had compensable ARDs. Of these people, 89% had been compensated, 3% had had their claims approved and 8% of claims were currently being investigated.

The Relief Trusts were actively involved in social projects. The National Asbestos Summit of 1998, convened by the then-Portfolio Committee on Environment and Tourism, marked the start of endeavours for communities who were affected by asbestos related diseases. The purpose of that Summit had been to investigate the complexities of asbestos-mining and its effects in South Africa. Major achievements of the Summit were rehabilitation of many asbestos mines by the Department of Mineral Resources, and  tightening up of asbestos regulations in 2001, which led to most manufacturers tending to find other options than using asbestos. The primary findings of the Summit had included the need for equality in terms of compensation, and the need to improve the health services in the affected communities. There were also recommendations to synchronise existing asbestos legislation, create a national database on asbestos, education and training of all service providers, the public at large, and the unions.

Mr Schmidt stated that most of the issues discussed in the presentation, arising from the Summit, were addressed but he was not sure whether everything in the presentation was in line with what was happening on the ground. He wondered if there was still a need for further legislation.

Mr Lucas stated that the media had recently reported that a community had claimed that it was not compensated, and that an attorney had been appointed to legitimise every claim. He enquired how the Trusts had reacted to these allegations. He further questioned the figure of R35 million that was mentioned in the presentation, and how that figure was arrived at. He wondered if the social component of the work should be attended to before the Trust had firstly dealt with the complaints of the people on the ground. He noted that there was no reference made to the medical fees, and wanted a figure for these as well,

An ANC Member said that many people in the Eastern Cape did not manage to see medical practitioners and would die from their diseases. She also said that there was a shortage of social workers to assist people in the lead-up to their diagnoses. She asked if there were relationships formed with the major teaching hospitals.

Ms Ngele asked how long it took for a claimant to receive compensation, queried why only one hospital in Kuruman was mentioned, and asked why others were not.

Ms Bikani had the impression that the initiatives to assist with asbestos-related diseases were not receiving enough attention and probed the relationship between the Department of Mineral Resources and the Trusts.

Mr Sonto enquired what the Trusts were expecting Parliament to do to assist. He commended them for their work, which he felt went a long way to assist existing entities to trace and make sure that those who suffered from ARDs were compensated. He too asked about the relationship between MHSC, the Department of Mineral Resources, and the Trust. He also enquired whether the existence of the Trust was known to those affected by ARDs.

Mr Sonto asked for more explanation on the 2010 reduction in claims, asked what this meant in real terms for the mining industry and communities near asbestos mines. He also asked why people may pretend to be sick when they were not.

The Deputy Minister elaborated on the issues in Kuruman. The community there felt that it had been mistreated, and there was great concern that issues were raised, yet nothing was seemingly done, and that despite the Summit of 2008 no feedback was given, nor had the effect of the resolutions taken been felt. The people of Kuruman also complained that some officials from Gauteng had called on the community, taken certain names, but not others, and there was suspicion around that process. However, he added that because of poverty and lack of education, it was possible that some people might claim to be ill, when in fact they were not. The Trust was fulfilling a significant need in Kuruman, and there was also collaboration with the Minister of Environmental Affairs, to tackle some of the issues in that areas. Employees who had been retrenched also had the expectation that they would be compensated for lack of work, and that was another issue that had to be looked into. He asserted that the KRT and ART needed to do much more than merely administer the Trusts, as far more complex issues needed to be properly dealt with.

Mr Camay said, in general response, that there was also a need for engagement with Mintek, and to try to bring all the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to work together. On 30 July 2009, following the Summit, the Trusts had engaged with other groups – for example, reports were sent through to the ANC Youth League, but no feedback was received. The environmental issues could not be managed by the Trust alone, as it was too small. The Trust wished to work with and integrate its work with the Department of Mineral Resources.

He responded on the media claims by stating that there was no evidence to support these claims in the Trust’s records. The Trust was a legal entity and was bound by the relevant regulations.

In relation to questions on the medical treatment, he noted that there were some places where a nurse could see a maximum of five people per day and once again, collaborative efforts were needed and medical practitioners and other stakeholders needed to work together. as it is too small. With regards to the person on media putting on a claim, he said that is no record of such evidence within the administration of the Trust. He said that the committee should take cognisance that the Trust is legal entity and is therefore bound by the relevant regulations. On the medical issue he said that there are places where a nurse can see a maximum of five people per day and therefore the issue with medical practitioners should be collaborated within relevant stakeholders. On the expectation question he said that the main purpose to be able to work and integrate with Department of Mineral Resources

Mr Piet Van Zyl, Chairperson, Asbestos Relief Trust, answered some of the questions. He said, in relation to the query on the R35 million, that this was the cost of one project, an extensive rehabilitation of one mine. Other mines were, however, rehabilitated by other companies. In regard to those claiming to be ill, he said that many people who were suffering from only the first stages of ARDs could in fact be treated and go on to live a long life, but people often pretended to be more seriously ill in order to claim compensation and stop work. It was hard to determine the degree of illness, and every case must be looked at on its own merits. He emphasised that the public representatives needed to make it clear to people that the compensation would only apply to those who were genuinely ill and in need.

The Chairperson asked for more detail on the symptoms of ARDs.

Mr Van Zyl said that, briefly, a person suffering from ARD1 was displaying about 10% exposure-related disease.

The Chairperson noted that another meeting was due to be held in the following week and further feedback would be requested after that.

Other Committee Business: Adoption of draft Report of Portfolio Committee on the Strategic Plan of the Department of Mineral Resources 2012/2013
The Chairperson tabled the draft Report and asked Members to comment. He requested that, in regard to bullet point 2 on page 6, the words “and other legislation” had to be added, so that the policy initiatives did not appear to be limited to two pieces of legislation only.

He also questioned bullet point 3, under “Key issues for consideration”, asking the context around and meaning of the statement around mining companies’ models.

Mr Schmidt commented on bullet point 1 of Page 6, and said that there was need firstly to ensure collaboration between Chamber of Mines and the Department, before any other progress could be made.

The Chairperson stated that the Committee still needed to report back on the Mining Charter, and to give its comment on the regulations.

The Chairperson commented that bullet point 2 of page 7, under “Findings” needed to be changed to state that the Department could do more monitoring, if there were proper resources and alignment. He also commented, in regard to the “Recommendations” section on page 7, that the Department should establish a compliance unit.

Mr Schmidt stated that he was not sure that the Report was an entirely correct representation of some of the points.

Mr M Gololo (ANC) said that the police role in mining also should be presented.

The Chairperson responded that the role of the police did not have to be stated, but in the event of illegal mining the South African Police Service (SAPS) would take charge and enforce the law.

Members adopted the report.

Second Term Committee programme 2012
The Chairperson tabled the Second Term programme.

Mr Schmidt felt that the Committee should consider visiting Virginia, as there were undoubtedly lessons to be learned from the depreciation of the environment there.

The Chairperson thought that this made sense, if it was in the vicinity of Bloemfontein.

Mr Sonto wanted it noted that the visit to Kimberley had not happened because of the failure of the Committee Section, and not the Committee itself, and that should be officially reported.

Mr Schmidt said it appeared that the bookings were not actually cancelled.

The Chairperson said that there would be a disclosure and setting out of the financial implications due to cancellations

Mr Lucas (IFP) wondered if oversight done by the Committee included beneficiaries.

Ms Bikani thought that the absence of the Committee Researcher needed to be discussed.

Ms Bikani noted that the top ten mining companies would be discussed during the programme on 13 June and it was necessary to find an appropriate venue well in advance.

Members adopted the programme.

The meeting was adjourned.


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