Mine Health and Safety Council & Inspectorate 2006 Annual Reports

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Mineral Resources and Energy

29 January 2007
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Meeting report

MINERALS AND ENERGY PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
29 January 2007

MINE HEALTH AND SAFETY COUNCIL & INSPECTORATE 2006 ANNUAL REPORTS

Acting Chairperson: Ms B Tinto (ANC)

Documents handed-out:
Mine Health and Safety Council Presentation of the 2005/ 2006 Annual Report
Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate Presentation on the 2005/06 Annual Report

SUMMARY
The Committee was briefed on the annual reports and financial statements of the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) and Inspectorate. The mandate of the MHSC included advising the Minister on occupational health and safety; review, develop and recommend legislation to the Minister and to promote health and safety in the mining sector. There was an 18% decrease in mining fatalities from 246 in 2004 to 202 in 2005. There was also a decrease in the number of serious injuries. Fatality rates had decreased in most sectors but gold mining showed a worrying upward trend. There were 190 fatalities last year. The mining sector had not been able to achieve minimum reduction of 20% for the last two years. The Council was still concerned about silicosis; noise induced hearing loss and HIV/AIDS. Tuberculosis was a major challenge and was increasing. XDR-TB was a recent concern. Mining accidents of disastrous proportion were still occurring. The Council was concerned with the gold sector because there was a regression in the past years. South Africa had an old mining sector and was mining in areas that were highly stressed. A lot of money (R35 million) would be spent to on research in the next five years to address noise induced hearing loss in the mining sector.

The Inspectorate was a branch of the Department of Minerals and Energy. It was responsible for regulating occupational health and safety in the mining industry and to monitor and enforce compliance with occupational health and safety requirements in mines. It also conducted investigations and inquiries into mining accidents. There were 202 deaths in the year under review in the gold mining sector. The figure showed substantive improvement if one looked at figures for the past years. The Inspectorate was competing with the private sector for skills. It had lost 75% of its top management in one year. The issue of retirement was a major concern and a huge number of staff was nearing the retirement age and there were not new entrants to replace them. Illegal mining was a serious concern and extremely dangerous for the Inspectorate. Illegal miners were using very sophisticate machinery. The Inspectorate was dealing with the challenge and referred all cases of illegal mining to the police. Water levels were rising in some closed mines in the North West and Gauteng regions. This was posing a threat to neighbouring mines and might lead to disasters in the future.

Questions raised by members included the following:
- How many cases of XDR-TB and HIV/AIDS had been found in mines.
- How much progress had been made in relation to having family units instead of single sex hostels.
-.What the Council was doing about noise induced hearing loss.
- Whether the numbers of fatalities in mines included illegal miners.
- Whether the Inspectorate would reach its targets given that mining was continuing in some of -the old mines that were very dangerous
- Why vacant posts had not been filled and why very little effort had been made in relation to skills development.
- Whether the Inspectorate had considered the possibility of extending the retirement age by at least a year or two depending on the willingness of people to continue working.

MINUTES
Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC) presentation

Mr T Zondi (Acting Chairperson), Mr E Gcilitshana (National Secretary for Health and Safety: NUM), Mr G Sekobe (Manager: Policy and Liaison) and Ms E Solomons (General Manager) attended the meeting. Mr Zondi gave an overview of the presentation and also took the Committee through the strategic objectives. The mandate of the MHSC (hereinafter referred to as the Council) included advising the Minister on occupational health and safety; review, develop and recommend legislation to the Minister and to promote health and safety in the mining sector. There was an 18% decrease in mining fatalities from 246 in 2004 to 202 in 2005. There was also a decrease in the number of serious injuries. Fatality rates had decreased in most sectors but gold mining showed a worrying upward trend. There were 190 fatalities last year. The mining sector had not been able to achieve minimum reduction of 20% for the last two years. There was a need to able to understand the challenges so as to understand why the sector was not meeting the target. There were two multi-fatal incidents that claimed the lives of nine people last year.

Ms Solomons said that the Council was still concerned about silicosis; noise induced hearing loss and HIV/AIDS. Tuberculosis was a major challenge and was increasing. XDR-TB was a recent concern. Regulations had been promulgated in respect of occupational health safety, ingress and egress from mine workings and machinery equipment. Guidelines for mandatory codes of practice for dealing with slope stability-related accidents on surface mines had been issued and were effective. The Council was facing a number of challenges which included the achievement of occupational health and safety industrial targets, reliable databases for health statistics and the fact that mining accidents of disastrous proportion were still occurring.

Discussion
Mr C Morkel (PIM) said that the Committee had undertaken a study tour to a Carletonville testing site managed by The Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee
(SIMRAC). Only the dynamic load tests and not the static tests were conducted on the site. The static test was compulsory and was done by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The static load test simply simulated a rock burst situation until the support system (pillars) buckled. The tests on the site visited simulated a seismic event that was a major killer in deep level mines. He suggested that the test that simulated a seismic event should be made compulsory. The trials that were conducted underground did not simulate seismic events.

Mr Zondi replied that the Mines Health and Safety Inspectorate presentation would address some of the questions asked by members. The CSIR testing facility had been in existence for a very long time and the Council did not want to duplicate what was already there. This was one of the reasons why the Savuka site was designed to do dynamic testing. A challenge with the dynamic testing was that the magnitude of any seismic event varied from place to place and this made it difficult to test for all possibilities.

Prof. I Mohamend (ANC) was alarmed by the situation presented by the Council. He asked what was happening in relation to XDR-TB. How much XDR-TB had been found and what was the Council doing about it? He also asked for some comments on the HIV/AIDS situation in mines. He wondered how much progress had been made in relation to having family units instead of single sex hostels. People had often heard about crumbling pillars in mines. Not all of the cement used in mines could stand the pressures found in mines. Perhaps the pillars were crumbling because there was something wrong with the cement.

Mr Zondi replied that the biggest challenge was in relation to the multi drug resistant TB. It started like the normal TB and developed to MDR if did not complete their medication over a period of six months. The extreme was the XDR TB. There primary focus was to ensure that people completed their medication before their TB could become MDR-TB. The mining sector was currently developing a policy in conjunction with the department of Housing to see how the existing same sex hostels could be converted into family units. Gold mines often leave stabilising pillars behind in order to minimise the movement of ground as they mined further under the ground. Such pillars should never be touched because they were there to stabilise the ground.

Mr Gcilitshana replied that a partnership was signed in 2001 to fight against the spread of HIV/AIDS. It was agreed that there should be targets in relation to the elimination of single sex hostels. The short-term target was that 50% of the mine workers should be living in family units by 2009 and the long-term target was that there should be mining communities where people lived with their families by 2013. The issue of land was a major challenge since land belonged to the government and private individuals. There was a need for partnerships in order to accelerate service delivery. The sector was very much concerned about the pace of delivery and it seemed that some of the targets might be missed due to the pace of delivery.

Mr J Combrinck (ANC) said that although there was generally a decrease in injuries in mines there was an increase in platinum mines. He asked for the reasons behind this. Platinum mines were a very dangerous place to go. The noise induced hearing loss was increasing in mines. He asked what the Council was doing about this. The Council was expected to handover some of its responsibilities to the Mines Health and Safety Inspectorate. He asked if any progress had been made in relation to this.

Mr Zondi replied that there was a significant improvement in the platinum sector. There were 49 accidents in 2005 and 40 in 2006 in platinum mines. The Council was concerned with the gold sector because there was a regression in the past years. South Africa had an old mining sector and was mining in areas that were highly stressed. A lot of money (R35 million) would be spent to on research in the next five years to address noise induced hearing loss in the mining sector. It had been acknowledged that there were high incidents on noise induced hearing loss in the sector.

Mr C Kekana (ANC) said that the presentation did not clearly deal with the issue of the rehabilitation of mine dumps. In Johannesburg all the mine dumps were in the previously disadvantaged areas around Soweto. The Northern suburbs had no such dumps. He said that some people grew up thinking that the mine dumps were natural mountains only to discover at a later stage that they were man-made mountains. The whole area was covered in yellow dust especially in the month of August. South Africa was fighting against pollution including pollution by cigarette smoke. The problem about mine dumps had been going on for some times and no visible action had been taken.

Mr Zondi replied that the Minerals Regulation branch of the department of Minerals and Energy dealt with the rehabilitation of mine dumps.

Ms N Mathibela (ANC) said that rock bursts were in most cases unpreventable because they occurred following earth tremours. Some people were killed at the Barberton mine recently. She asked what could be done to stop people from going to such mines.

Mr Zondi replied that the challenge was to determine location, magnitude and time at which the seismic event would occur. It was very difficult to pinpoint what would happen.

The Chairperson asked if the numbers of fatalities in mines included illegal miners.

Mr Zondi replied that the SA Police Service had the responsibility of addressing the problem of illegal mining.

Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate (MHSI) presentation
Mr TE Gazi (Acting Chairperson), Mr V Nandal and Ms S Makgoba attended the meeting. Mr Gazi made the presentation. (See document attached). The Inspectorate was a branch of the Department of Minerals and Energy. It was responsible for regulating occupational health and safety in the mining industry and to monitor and enforce compliance with occupational health and safety requirements in mines. It also conducted investigations and inquiries into mining accidents. The minerals sector was the "bed rock" of SA's industrialisation and a significant contributor to employment. The gold mining sector employed 30% of the workforce in the mining sector and accounted for 51% of the fatalities and 56% of the injuries. There were 202 deaths in the year under review in the gold mining sector. The figure showed substantive improvement if one looked at figures for the past years.

He said that the Inspectorate was competing with the private sector for skills. It had lost 75% of its top management in one year. The issue of retirement was a major concern and a huge number of staff was nearing the retirement age and there were not new entrants to replace them.

Mr Gazi said that illegal mining was a serious concern and extremely dangerous for the Inspectorate. Illegal miners were using very sophisticate machinery. The Inspectorate was dealing with the challenge and referred all cases of illegal mining to the police. The Inspectorate was drafting guidelines on how to deal with illegal mining. It usually did not go to mines that had been closed unless somebody had reported that some activities were happening there. Water levels were rising in some closed mines in the North West and Gauteng regions. This was posing a threat to neighbouring mines and might lead to disasters in the future.

Discussion
Mr Morkel said that the research should be conducted on how to make dynamic testing compulsory especially in deep level gold mines. Seismicity was higher in gold mines than any other mines. The presentation did not disaggregate rock falls from rock bursts. The issue of the magnitude of seismic events could lead to one creating a support system to deal with events of a particular magnitude. Some people had said that one could expect seismic events in mines as a result of flooding. The country would get nowhere should it adopt the old approach that said nothing could have been done because the seismic event was an act of God. Anything that could be done would help.

Mr Gazi replied that the Inspectorate would look at the issue of making the dynamic test compulsory during its mini indaba. It would provide statistics on rock falls and rocks bursts at a later stage.

Mr Kekana said that the Inspectorate should throw more light on issue of skills because it was not limited to the sector. There was a need to overhaul the education system to ensure that it produced the required skills. There was no way that the public sector would be able to compete with the private sector as long as there were Chief Executive Officers who were earning up to R5 million. SA was not the first country under a free market system to grapple with the problem. He asked if the Inspectorate had conducted research to learn as to how other countries had dealt with the issue. Some companies demanded that a person who had been offered a bursary should take the bursary on condition that he or she would come and work for the company for a certain period of time. One did not want to tie people to contracts in a democratic society. India was producing more engineers than it needed and one might have to explore the possibility of having them come to SA whilst SA was busy producing its own engineers.

Mr Gazi replied that the Inspectorate had not conducted research in order to see what other countries had done in relation to the skills problem. It had often relied on its human resources department to provide guidance. It was only after it had realised the seriousness of the problem that it started to come up with a three-legged plan to address the problem. There were lots of vacancies but people were not applying for the posts. The intention was to take people who had diplomas and degrees in engineering and make arrangements with mining academies so that they could be given the kind of practical training that they needed. This process (learnership) would take about two to three years. A second leg revolved around bursaries and issues of gender. There was also a problem in relation to not getting enough women in the Inspectorate's ranks. The Inspectorate would recruit school leaving women from rural areas and put them through academic institutions. This was a long-term intervention. The last leg dealt with management development issues wherein people were taken from the staff and trained through the South African Management Development Institute. The branch could come up with initiatives but it remained within the Department of Minerals and Energy that had certain prescripts with which the branch had to align its activities.

Prof. Mohamed asked how many cases of XDR-TB and HIV/AIDS had been found in mines. Some people often left their jobs and went to the former homelands making it difficult for them to be traced. Had the number of cases increased? One of the mine dumps in Meadowlands was stabilised by using clastogenic materials. The CSIR did the stabilisation but did not want to say what kind of clastogenic materials were used.

Mr Gazi replied that the Inspectorate was playing a promotional role in relation to TB and HIV/AIDS. Its legislation required mines to report occupational illnesses. Mines did not report on other diseases and there were confidentiality issues around HIV/AIDS to deal with. This made it difficult to pronounce of the number of cases in mines. He noted the concerns around mine dumps and said that something had to be done about them.

Mr Nandal replied that XDR- TB had emerged recently and the number of cases that directly impacted on mines was around six.

Ms Mathibela asked if the Inspectorate thought that it would reach its benchmarks given that mining was continuing in some of the old mines that were very dangerous. Most if not all of the people that the Committee saw at the Mining Qualifications Authority were old and questions could be asked as to whether they were preparing candidates who would replace them when they retire. The tender processes in the country were questionable. Tenders would go out in 2007 only for the actual work to start many years after the issuing of the tenders. One could find that some of the people who were in office when the tenders were issued where no longer in office and their replacements knew very little about the tenders.

Mr Gazi could not say if the Inspectorate would be able to meet its targets.

Mr Combrinck asked why vacant posts had not been filled and why very little effort had been made in relation to skills development. He also asked why the Inspectorate had not channelled money from balances from the previous year towards skills development. He said that the report indicated that 25 years ago 40 out of 1000 people in mines had TB and the figure had increased to 240 out of 1000 people. He asked if those were South African people or foreigners. The Inspectorate still had a lot of white males in its staff. There was no problem with having white males in the staff but the problem was that this meant that a lot of staff were over the age of 40 and would soon retire. In most cases the white guys were the people who had the skills. He asked if the Inspectorate would still have the required skills when those people retired. The vacant posts had been advertised and the challenge was to find the right people.

Mr Gazi replied that the Inspectorate would have to face a situation wherein older people were retiring with their skills. New people would come into the workforce but there would be some gaps. It was hoped that the learnerships would help fill the gaps. The Mining Qualification Authority (MQA) had a bursary scheme that had about 800 bursars at universities or technikons at some point. The number was going down due to resource constraints. This project was over and above what the mining sector was doing. There was also a graduate development programme in which people were given training in the mining sector. There was also the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition (JIPSA). The MQA had identified critical skills in the sector that were mainly in the engineering field. It seems that the sector had not anticipated the economic growth that was taking place hence the shortage of skills. A closer look at the press would reveal that most of the companies were global institutions and did not only recruit for the local operations but also for their global operations.

Mr Nandal replied that the number of TB cases did not indicate if the person was suffering from other diseases like HIV/AIDS.

Mr Morkel said that having some of the staff of the Inspectorate joining the private sector sounded like having a referee becoming a player for a team in whose games he had officiated and this was not healthy. He asked if there were restraint of trade agreements with the staff as part of their employment contracts. He also asked if there was an opportunity to have such contracts should the answer to his question be in the negative.

Mr Gazi replied that Mr Kekana had commented that it was very difficult to stop people from moving in a democratic society. The Inspectorate had requested its human resource department to advise on the issue of restraint of trade agreements. He said that the Inspectorate was not really complaining but merely highlighting that the shortage of skills impacted on how it did its job.

Mr Fred Gona (NUM) said that he was concerned with issues of compliance especially given the statistics on fatalities. The presentation had indicated a decrease in fatalities but there were still some concerns because in most instances the results of the investigation would point to the conditions of work. He asked if the Inspectorate was doing something about the reluctance of industry to unlock funds for health and safety matters. The figures on occupational accidents and diseases were worrying. He asked if the industry complied with the health surveillance programmes and if they kept the programmes for current and former employees. The worrying factor was that some of the diseases were only picked up after death.

He said that one was worried when government agencies took the line taken by business in complaining of lack of skills without defining the skills and looking at the investment that had already been made in the people. There were workers who had been trained to be health and safety representative and had somehow been retrenched. He asked if the sector did not recognise the skills possessed by such people and if such people were in a state such that they could not be called back and re-trained so that they could alleviate the problem. The danger was that the country would lose the focus of developing skills and simply rush to import them. There was a tendency to import white skills from Europe at a high price and this would cause discomfort within the working class in the country. There would be dissatisfaction once highly skilled people who produced nothing flooded the market.

Mr Gazi replied that reports by the big mines showed that they were building up towards compliance in relation to health surveillance. The challenge was in relation to smaller operations but the Inspectorate was engaging with the mines. Smaller mines in the Northern Cape province had organised themselves and indicated their inability to comply with the requirement. They had approached the Council and asked for research to be done on the issue of compliance. There was a strong drive on the part of the Inspectorate to ensure that there was compliance.

Mr Nandal replied that section 13 of the Mining Health and Safety Act required the keeping of the records of medical surveillance for 40 years after the last medical surveillance. Researchers had noted the increase in TB since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS pandemic but the kind of statistics requested by members were not available.

With regard to illegal mining, he said that research was conducted by the Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee. The project number was 040908. The research project looked at the effect of illegal mining on legal miners.

Mr Zondi replied that Inspectors visited mining companies to check and audit their systems against the relevant legislation. Inspectors had the power to take action against any company that did not comply with the law. They even had the power to stop working places and there was a number of working places that had been stopped. Inspectors could also issue administrative fines of up to R200 000. 00 and a number of fines had been issued to different mines.

The Chairperson said that she had come across two people who were suffering from asbestos related diseases in the Western Cape. She hand referred them to the Lung Clinic at Groote Schuur Hospital but not much assistance was given to them. Those people had no information on where to go with their problems. It was important for the Committee to have the relevant information so that it could help the public.

Mr Gcilitshana said that there was a case against an asbestos company three years ago that led to the establishment of the asbestos trust. The trust normally gave an annual report on progress it had made. The chairperson of the trust was dealing with all the asbestos related cases. The chairperson of the trust could be reached at (011) 836 9942/3. The prosecution of offenders took a long time. He said that putting the necessary systems in place could prevent rock falls and rock bursts.

Mr Nandal replied that Dr L Ndelu of the Medical Bureau for Occupational Diseases could be contacted on (011) 403 6322.

Mr Morkel went back to issue of the restraint of trade agreements. It did not make economic sense to invest a lot of resources on people only for them to go and work for other companies. One was not saying that people should stay with an organisation forever but there were agreements that could be entered into that could tie such people to the Inspectorate for a certain period of time. There was the danger that some people might not do their job properly at the Inspectorate simply because they would be joining a certain company very soon.

Mr Gazi replied that Mr Morkel's concern had been address by a project commissioned by the former Minister of Minerals and Energy and run the International Mining Company. The project looked at how relationships impacted on the work of the Inspectorate. The Inspectorate was investigating the possibility of tying new recruits to some contract for some time.

Mr Kekana asked if the Inspectorate had consider the possibility of extending the retirement age by at least a year or two depending on the willingness of people to continue working. The period of employment could be reviewed annually. The mine dumps where mainly in the southern suburbs but none where existent in areas where the mine owners lived.

Mr Gazi replied that the Inspectorate had looked at the possibility of extending the retirement age and this was built into its plans. The public sector guidelines allowed for the use of people as mentors a few years before they retired. Their contracts could be extended after retirement provided that they had performed well before their retirement. Some people were simply not interested in training others.

The meeting was adjourned. -

 

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