The main agenda items for the meeting contained two issues - the Committee report on its oversight visit to Gauteng and the response from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) regarding the Minister’s availability to respond to the Committee on the Allegations of State Capture.
The Gauteng oversight visit was done to improve the Committee’s understanding of the HEALTH and SAFETY issues affecting mine workers and the associated challenges and corrective measures taken or needed, to improve the current situation. A large number of stakeholders were visited including DMR and its entities (Mintek, Mine Health and Safety Council, Council for Geoscience, the Mining Qualifications Authority), the Chamber of Mines, some mines, the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM), the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union (AMCU) as well as Solidarity.
Some important findings emerged from the oversight visit - notably that there had been a dramatic decline in mine fatalities (600 in1993 to below 100 in 2013). However, the rate of fatalities and injuries remained unacceptably high despite significant improvements since the Mine Health and Safety Act was introduced in 1996. “Zero Harm” was a safety slogan shared by all in the mining sector. The main fatalities on gold mines were caused by two incidents - fall of ground (soil caving in on top of mine workers and transport related incidents. Some fall of ground incidents were triggered by earthquakes (seismic activity) which was difficult to detect. There was a tension between safety and production as workers strived to increase income via production bonuses. Some mines have countered this by including safety as a part of the bonus scheme. A key requirement to improve the mine health and safety situation was that all stakeholders had to work together in a multifaceted approach , especially those government departments involved, notably DMR, Department of Labour and the Department of Health.
Some of the key Committee recommendations emanating from the visit were, amongst others, that - more experimentation was required on mine planning and mine safety methods to ensure worker safety, permanent funding to train more mining inspectors, DMR and the Chief Inspector of Mines had to collaborate with the MQA to develop skills in rock engineering and that DMR, Department of Labour and Department of Health had to account for the long term failure of the benefits and compensation for mine workers suffering from lung disease. Flowing from this, there was an urgent need for fast-tracking current legislation (DMR, DoL and DoH) to enable this.
There was also a proposal to ask CHAMSA to provide Parliament with a brief on its investigations regarding the illicit flows of capital from SA mines.
Members’s discussion on the report dealt mainly with improving grammar and to clarify concepts but also included a suggestion that DMR and other state entities involved in mine health and safety had to brief the Committee by March 2018 on the progress to improve the current situation.
The report was approved with amendments.
On the matters arising from the minutes of 1 November, it was reported that DMR had advised the Committee that Minister Zwane was available to meet with the Committee on 28 and 29 November 2017. This would allow the Committee to continue questions to the Minister, on the allegations of state capture, as requested by the House Chair.
Members were in agreement on the date, but could not agree on a definitive way forward once they had concluded their engagement with the Minister. The Committee planned to send a report to House Chair after the meeting with the Minister.
Opening Remarks by Chairperson
The Chairperson welcomed Committee members and others in the room. A representative from the Chamber of Mines (CHAMSA) was part of the general public attending.
He advised that the meeting had two agenda items - the report on the Committee's oversight visit to Gauteng and matters arising from the meeting on1 November 2017, notably a response from the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) on the Minister’s availability to meet with the Committee.
Committee Oversight visit to Gauteng (11-15 September 2017)
The Chairperson said he would highlight some aspects of the report and suggested the Committee spend more time on the findings and recommendations of the oversight visit.
A large number of stakeholders were visited including DMR and its entities (Mintek, Mine Health and Safety Council, Council for Geoscience, the Mining Qualifications Authority), the Chamber of Mines, some mines, the National Union of Mine Workers (NUM), the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union (AMCU) as well as Solidarity.
The main thrust of the visit was to get an overview of the health and safety of mine workers and the associated challenges and corrective measures taken or needed, to improve mine health and safety.
Engagements with stakeholders revealed some important information about SA mines - e.g. South Africa operates amongst the deepest mines in the world- e.g. Mponeng mine near Carltonville. was 4.2 km deep, fall of ground remained a significant obstacle to health and safety of mine workers, retrenchments and restructuring were still evident in the mining industry due to unfavourable economic conditions (a big concern for trade unions) and capacity constraints continued to impact negatively on mine operations.
The Report outlined some of the important findings i.e:
-There had been a dramatic decline in mine fatalities (600 in 1993 to below 100 in 2013). However, the rate of fatalities and injuries remained unacceptably high despite significant improvements since the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA) was introduced in 1996
-“Zero harm” was a goal and slogan shared by all in the mining sector
-The main fatalities on gold mines were caused by two incidents - fall of ground (soil caving in on top of mine workers and transport related incidents. Some fall of ground incidents (FOG) were triggered by earthquakes (seismic activity) which was difficult to detect. Earthquakes occurred both naturally and also as a result of mining activity. Careful mine planning and work practices could however reduce the impact of earthquakes
-There was a tension between safety and production, so it was critical to involve workers in improving mine health and safety as they were at the “coal face” of activities where a difference could be made. Some mine management and workers strived to increase their salaries via production bonuses, that could impact negatively on safety, however some mines have included safety as part of the bonus system. In addition, Workers could refuse to work in unsafe areas
-There was no “silver bullet” to improve mine health and safety - what was needed was a multifaceted approach between all key stakeholders. This meant key stakeholders like DMR, Department of Health and the Department of Labour had to work together to address a number of issues to improve workers lives - e.g. combating lung diseases.
The report contained some key Recommendations to improve health and safety:
-CGS had to conduct more research on seismicity to provide improved information to manage FOG incidences
-More experimentation was required on mine planning and mine safety methods to ensure worker safety
-DMR required additional legal resources to improve its Section 54 (application of safety stoppages in mines) defence cases in court. In addition, DMR had to respond to industry concerns around the proposed protocol with Section 54 as submitted by CHAMSA.
-The training of trainee inspectors needed to be financed on a permanent basis by DMR and the Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA)
-DMR and the Chief Inspector of Mines had to collaborate with the MQA to develop skills in rock engineering
-DMR and the Departments of Health and Labour had to account collectively for the long term failure of the benefits and compensation for mine workers suffering from lung disease. Government, as a whole, was also to blame the report indicated
-DMR had to inform parliament on the progress to amend the Mine Health and Safety Act, specifically the timelines
-There was also a recommendation that Parliament should cordially invite CHAMSA to provide a brief on its research regarding the nature an extent of illicit financial flows from mining sector in SA
The Chairperson asked members to comment on the Findings and Recommendations as contained in the report. He also alerted members that he was still awaiting a report from Harmony Mine on its Doringkop operations that would contribute to the report.
The Chairperson requested that the section on page 28, dealing with workers rights to refuse working in unsafe conditions, that the wording “think are dangerous” be replaced by “deemed to be dangerous”.
Adv H Schmidt (DA) agreed with this as it meant that workers rights could be exercised in a reasonable manner, (ie was not unreasonable)
Ms V Nyambi (ANC) suggested that the term in section 13 - “deepest mine in the world” be replaced by the term “amongst the deepest mines in the world”.
The Chairperson suggested that the three government entities responsible for the occupational health of workers (DMR, DoH and DOL) be tasked to fast-track a process for the compensation of workers.
Adv Schmidt asked if there were any legislation executed in due course.
The Chairperson responded that he was not sure and asked the Committee Researcher to investigate the progress on the integration of the three separate laws governing the issue of this compensation.
Mr J Lorimer (DA) proposed that the Committee ask the three Departments to provide the Committee with a formal report on the issue.
The Chairperson concurred.
Mr Lorimer wanted to know who had to do the experimentation referred to on page 29, second bullet point.
The Chairperson responded that it had to be the mines supported by other stakeholders involved in mining. If there was more collaboration between responsible parties, better outcomes would be achieved.
Mr Lorimer suggested that instead of the DMR spending more money on additional legal resources, it would be better to employ more qualified mine inspectors. He was referring to bullet point three (that DMR need more legal resources to help it defend section 54 cases in courts). If there were more inspectors to inspect mines - and the mining protocol was “fixed” - there would be less legal challenges.
Mr I Pikinni (ANC) said he agreed with this approach.
The Chairperson said he understood the point but felt that if DMR was better resourced on legal matters (i.e. more staff) - it would have greater chances of succeeding in court. DMR had the technical and business knowledge on mineral resources but often lacked legal expertise, which meant court challenges were lost where there were strong cases.
Mr Lorimer said he agreed but felt that if the Section 54 protocol on mining procedures were fixed the need for legal challenges would disappear. However the Committee had to see the timeline on the protocols so that there was certainty about the process.
The Chairperson suggested that the two bullet points in the report on more legal resources for DMR and the protocols on Section 54 could be interchanged and that the Committee would request that DMR responded on the protocols by March 2018, prior to an assessment of the requirement of more legal resources.
He said that March 2018 could also be the due date when DMR, DoH and DoL had to respond to the Committee on the integration of measures to fast-track the compensation of mine workers with lung diseases.
He further commentated that DMR had to brief the Committee and not Parliament (page 30, bullet point three).
Members agreed that the Chairperson had to send another letter to Harmony to request the information promised during the oversight visit.
The Report was accepted with amendments.
Minutes of Committee meeting on 1 November 2017
The minutes were approved.
There was only one issue arising from the minutes - if a date had been secured with the Minister of Mineral Resources to continue the Committee questions on the allegations of State Capture.
The Chairperson advised that Adv Thabo Mokoena, DMR:DG had written to the Committee confirming that the Minister was available on 28 and 29 November 2017. He admitted that that the dates were a bit too “far away” - 30 November was affectively the last day before members started taking leave - but that in the interest of progressing the issue, members had to accept the date and start their planning for the meeting. The Committee could meet with the Minister and report its findings to the House Chair after 29 Nov 2017.
Mr Lorimer said he agreed with this approach, but he wanted to know if the Committee could decide on the way forward, once the Minister had been engaged.
The Chairperson said the Committee was perhaps not the only parliamentary entity looking at the issue, there were others to consider in deciding the way forward - like the Whips Forum, Political Party views, the House Chair and even the Speaker. However, provided there was agreement in the Committee, a report could be sent to the House Chair once the engagement with the Minister was concluded.
The Committee members present, all agreed on the dates of 28 and 29 November 2017 to meet with Minister Zwane and forwarding a Committee report to the House Chair thereafter.
The Chairperson said there were two other issues that the Committee had to conclude - a briefing by CGS on the exorbitant funding required for the high resolution (hi-res) mapping programme and the DMR’s outstanding work on SAMRAD (the South African Mineral Resources Administration System where the general public could view applications, rights and permits made or held in terms of the MPRDA, and where applications could be submitted).
Dr Martin Nicol, Committee Researcher, responded that perhaps the Committee could proceed with SAMRAD as it needed a briefing by an independent expert on hi-res mapping prior to engaging with CGS. He and Mr Kweyama (the Committee Content Advisor), was still in the process of securing the services of an expert to brief the Committee.
The Committee agreed with this approach.
The meeting was adjourned at 10h35
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