Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill: public hearings

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Mineral Resources and Energy

14 August 2008
Chairperson: Mr Ngcobo
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Meeting Summary

The Committee held public hearings on the Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill (the Bill). The Chamber of Mines said that in 2006 there was no improvement in health and safety, and in 2007 a deterioration. So far in 2008 there had been 27% improvement due to involving Chief Executive Officers of the mining houses directly in safety. The Chamber aimed to improve safety by 20% each year to reach zero harm. All initiatives were aimed at achieving best practice. Studies on seismicity and rockbursts had been conducted. A project would be facilitated so that ex-mineworkers could access compensation for occupational diseases. Prevention of accidents was vital, which meant establishing why accidents were occurring. People should be encouraged, during inquiries, to give full information, but might be unwilling to do so if that information could be used to incriminate them. The Chamber suggested that the reports on accidents should not automatically be accepted as evidence in civil suits. It stressed the need for cooperation but said that if there were continuing transgressions some form of discipline or sanction should be imposed. It urged that the Bill must strike a better balance between a punitive and preventative approach. At present, there was no clarity whether criminal and administrative sanctions could both be applied for the same incident. The fines were considered too high, especially for the smaller mines. Basic procedures must be observed if fines were imposed. The Chamber submitted that the inspectorate needed to be strengthened and properly equipped in numbers and qualifications, and criticised the proposed addition of new functions as counterproductive and burdensome. The Mine Health and Safety Council should be the oversight body, chaired by an independent Chairperson. The principle of tripartism was working well and should be maintained. It offered to give practical training to inspectors. Further concerns related to the issuing of permits, and the fact that no minimum competencies were set out for inspectors, that guidelines were needed, and that clause 17 should set out minimum requirements.

Members asked about South Africa’s deep level mining, what could be done to make mining companies more responsible for health and safety, the relationship between the Chamber and the National Union of Mineworkers, the inference that people had been unwilling to give evidence during inquiries, what was being done about loss of hearing amongst miners, and who had been included in the round table discussions. Some Members believed more stringent measures were needed, as no price could be put on a life. Further questions addressed international best practices, the need for timeframes, the need to secure commitment, how mineworkers could be assisted to access funding set aside for them and the reasons for increases in fatalities.

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research was concerned that support for mining research must continue. Clause 7 proposed to remove statutory support from Safety In Mines Research Advisory Committee (SIMRAC) and place it under the Mine Health and Safety Council. Mining gave direct employment to 459 000 people and indirectly supported between five and seven million people. Milestones around health needed to be discussed as the statistics on disease were worrying. It was of great concern that funding for health and other medium and long term research was declining, as research led to reduction or elimination of hazards. Some of the current and past research was described. The Council believed there must be a national plan linking research and development, skills development and implementation, with strong focus on training at the highest level, and a high level of funding. Therefore it was recommended that clause 9 be removed or reworded and the position of SIMRAC must be clarified.  Members enquired the results of the CSIR study on rockbursts, and enquired as to its relationship with the Unions. They also asked the difference between research undertaken by CSIR and Mintek.

The National Union of Mineworkers noted that the existing legal framework for promoting mining safety had been inadequate. Mining accidents were too frequent, and it was difficult to hold a specific individual or agency responsible. Development of adequate mine rescue services had also been neglected and must now be transformed. Comments were made on clause 31, relating to penalties. The Union believed that the proposed fine of R1 million would send a strong message to management. The deduction of 10% of mine turnover where there had been a fatal accident could act as a deterrent. Mining companies were spending millions on their operations, but not on safety. The design of industrial machinery, requiring adaptation by humans, posed severe dangers. The European Union standards should be adopted as a benchmark for safety. Members asked about the possibility of using money spent on recruiting foreign mineworkers instead on safety improvements, whether the Chamber of Mines and the Union had a good working relationship on safety, if breach of standards was identified, and whether workers were obliged to enter into dangerous situations.

The South African Mining Development Association (SAMDA) argued that the Bill could challenge the struggling smaller mining enterprises, or junior mines, that it represented. The Bill could impose bureaucratic requirements of worker training and medical practitioner presence. SAMDA supported the Bill in principle, but advanced a plea for exemption from punitive action. No fatal accidents had occurred in the junior mines. Junior mining was linked to BEE initiatives, and there was often a shortage of adequate funding, also to meet formal safety standards required by the Bill. SAMDA proposed a 45 day period for an investigation of problem areas. It further called for consideration of a venture capital fund for miners, similar to what Landbank had offered to farmers. It requested clarification of the wording of clause 11. In principle, the punitive system was supported, but it queried the enforcement and the possibility of using a weighted scorecard. Members agreed that the small mining concerns must be taken into consideration, but at the same time expressed the view that safety issues were paramount and it would be undesirable to create two separate systems. The suggestion was made that financing should be provided, and that more information about these mines should be obtained.

Meeting report

Mine Health and Safety Amendment Bill (the Bill): Public Hearings
Chamber of Mines (COM) Submission
Dr Frans Barker, Senior Executive, Chamber of Mines, said that there had already been improvements in health and safety from 2004 to 2005. However, based on international best practice, there needed to be an improvement of 20% each year up to 2013. In 2006, there was no improvement and in 2007 there was a slight deterioration. In the first six months of 2008 there was an improvement of 27%, largely due to the Chief Executive Officers of mines becoming directly involved in safety issues. The vision of the Chamber of Mines was that there must be continual improvement towards zero harm. All initiatives were taken towards best practice. There had been a launch of studies by independent and international experts for seismicity and rockbursts. Chief Executive Officers would be invited to a two-day round table discussion to come up with an action plan in order to deal with safety issues and to facilitate a project on occupational diseases among ex-mineworkers, so that these ex-mineworkers could get access to the benefits for occupational diseases. He mentioned that critical success factors to improve health and safety would be to prevent accidents before they happened, and to find the real causes of accidents and incidents. There had to be cooperation between all parties.  There should be no fears arising from evidence that was given. He added that there should be a move towards a partnership culture, as everyone was in the same boat. However, if there were continuous transgressions at the same mine then there should be some form of discipline and sanction imposed.

Dr Barker said that there needed to be a strong inspectorate and that COM supported the initiative of government so that inspectors would be able to get an office and a salary. There needed to be a balance between a preventative and a punitive approach, and COM felt that the legislation should not go too far with the punitive approach, as that would lead to a focus on simply complying with the legislation rather than actively instituting best practice. The punitive approach would show results in the short term but would not be sustainable in the long term. The sharp increase in administrative fines clearly indicated a move towards such a punitive approach. 

Mr Sietserd van der Woude, Safety Adviser to Chamber of Mines, raised concerns around the protection of evidence. He said that it was necessary to get to the underlying causes of accidents and that a person should be able to tell the truth without necessarily incriminating himself. If there incrimination was introduced, then there would be reluctance to give evidence.  He proposed that representations made should not be used automatically in any civil or criminal proceedings, inquests, disciplinary enquiries or administrative  proceedings. In these latter proceedings, the same evidence could be sought, but the same report as used in the enquiry should not be used again. He added that the intention was good but there could be negative consequences to the prime aim to improve health and safety.

Mr van der Woude noted that Clause 11, concerning the inspectorate becoming a juristic person, was supported. However, something needed to be done to support the inspectorate so that it was properly equipped both in numbers and qualifications. To support the independent inspectorate there needed to be an oversight body, and that body should be the Mine Health and Safety Council (MHSC), which should also be chaired by an independent Chairperson.  He said that the principle of tripartism should be retained in the Council, as it had served it well in the past, and was the cornerstone for the Mine Health and Safety Act. People nominated by each party to the Council should have expertise in health and safety issues. Financial support for the Inspectorate should come from the state. The budget for the Department of Minerals and Energy was over R120 million, and in addition to this, employers contributed between R40 and R50 million for research purposes. The Chamber of Mines was more than willing to offer practical training for inspectors.

Mr van der Woude stated that a new function of the inspectorate was contained in clause 12 (4)(d) – namely to “grant, amend, suspend or revoke health and safety permits”. These new functions were based on the United Kingdom (UK) model. That model told the inspectorate to find certain risk work, then the employer would have to say how it would deal with that risk, and then submit a programme. If the inspectors were happy with the programme, a permit would be issued. That would require a great deal of work and expertise from the inspectorate, who would then also have to take accountability and responsibility if something were to go wrong. There were already mechanisms in the Mine Health and Safety Act that dealt with specific risks. Adding new functions to the inspectorate would, in the COM’s view, make it  counterproductive and a burden to the industry.

Mr van der Woude noted that the COM had concerns about the issuing of permits and a person’s fundamental rights being affected. He added that people needed minimum competencies to work in the mine,  but there were no minimum competencies required for inspectors. When inspectors went to mines, they dealt with specialists, which could disadvantage them if they did not have the correct competencies. The use of powers of inspectors were inconsistent and therefore guidelines should be given on how to exercise those powers. With reference to clause 17, he suggested that minimum requirements should be given.

Mr van der Woude said that there was a strict time limit of 30 days within which employers had to respond to the inspectorate, but added that a time limit should also be imposed on the Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) in which to do certain things.

Mr van der Woude also raised concerns around the sharp increase in fines. The inspectorate complained that when they got to the mines, there were lawyers already waiting for them to raise challenges and legal points, and he suggested that the increases would make this situation worse. The current fine was R200,000, and the proposed increase envisaged a fine of R1 million which was higher than fines imposed by the courts. This must be compared to the maximum amount of R500 000 that a court could impose.  He stressed that the COM was not suggesting that there should not be sanctions, but that it was necessary to consider the effects on the cash flows of smaller mines, which could put them out of business. There should be basic procedures in place when issuing fines, as the fundamental rights of people could be affected. Section 55(G) should be retained. A person should only pay a fine when proven guilty. The proposed criminal sanctions for all contraventions were listed in addition to administrative fines, but there was nothing said as to whether a person could be sanctioned to both. If both could apply, then there was the possibility that a person would be punished twice for the same offence. He pointed out that the criminal justice system already had numerous problems and delays and for prosecutions to be effective the dockets had to be properly drawn, investigations should be thorough and the presiding officers must be well versed in health and safety mining matters. He suggested that this must be clarified. Employers needed to be encouraged to apply best practice and not just minimum standards. Chapter 3 was about labour relation issues and should not be dealt with as part of criminal liability.

Dr Barker concluded by saying that the amendments proposed should not change the philosophy of the Mine Health and Safety Act (the principal Act). The basic principles of this Act were still working, but an improved cooperative and partnership approach would lead to improvements.

Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR): Submission
Dr Declan Vogt, 
Manager, Mining Technology, CSIR, noted that the main concern of the CSIR centred around the research being done in mining, and why support for the research should continue. Clause 7, removing the statutory support for Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee (SIMRAC), instead placing SIMRAC at the discretion of the Mine Health and Safety Council. He noted the importance of mining by noting that the mining industry employed 458 600 people, who in turn were the providers for 5 to 7 million people. Milestones around health needed to be discussed. The statistics related to disease were worrying. More than 30% of miners whose bodies went for autopsies showed elements of silicosis, and this was a pointer to why people were dying in the rural areas. More than 35% of active mineworkers had TB. Far more research was required.

Dr Vogt pointed out that the move to DME-driven safety research had led to the creation of SIMRAC in 1992, and later to MHSC. In 1993, the research based at Comro had moved to CSIR. Since then, company and government investment in medium to long term research has been declining. Successes in the past resulting directly from research had included the elimination of heatstroke, which previously affected 30% of mineworkers. The number of rockbursts had also decreased. Future research challenges would include fundamental understanding of rock behaviour, to become aware of geological hazards before they were reached, cost- effective elimination of noise and silica dust and dealing with muscular-skeletal hazards. The Leon Commission that had been set up after SIMRAC had been formed recommended that research for health and safety should be funded by levies. SIMRAC should have research advisors. Already in 2003, there was a review on Health and Safety by the DME which had concluded that it was vital to conduct research under SIMRAC, and which had recommended that legislative amendments be made to clarify funding.

Dr Vogt added that a year ago there was a tripartite indaba on rockbursts and seismicity. The recommendations included investigations into the viability of a Rockburst Research Agency, which would focus on fundamental as well as applied research, and that a research-to-practice strategy, or technology transfer, to address institutional arrangements, stakeholder capacity and monitoring systems should be developed. CSIR believed that there needed to be a national plan linking research and development (R&D), skills development and implementation. There needed to be a strong focus on training at the highest level of skills. Research was important to the future of health and safety in mining, given the unique needs of this country. SIMRAC had been seriously under funded and the loss of its statutory mandate threatened the future of mining research. He proposed that the position of SIMRAC should be explicitly clarified in the Bill, and clause 9 should be removed or reworded.

Mr S Vundisa (ANC) asked which departments did not have a need for Health and Safety. He further wanted to know how many mineworkers had died in the past five to ten years and whether South Africa was the only mining country that mined at deep levels. He also asked what needed to be done to make mining companies responsible for Health and Safety. Finally he enquired if the Chamber of Mines had a good relationship with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

Mr J Combrinck (ANC) wanted to know from CSIR if the results from the study for the prevention of rockbursts was available. He also wanted to know what percentage of the total income of mines was being used for Mine Health and Safety. Furthermore, he questioned the suggestions by Chamber of Mines that there was a need to have freely-given evidence, and asked if there had previously been reluctance to give reports during investigations. He stated that people’s hearing was being affected by mining, and wanted to know what the COM was doing to prevent this. Lastly, he enquired if Parliament and the unions had been included in the round-table conference mentioned.

Mr T Mahlaba (ANC) commented that the COM had failed to reach its own milestones. There was a gap between the milestones and reality; the milestones aimed to ensure that lives were saved, and was surely an indication that the legislation should be pushed to its utmost to achieve that. The Bill was actually trying to circumvent non-compliance and was failing to meet the target to preserve life. He believed that more stringent measures should be in place. No price could be put on a life.

Mr Mahlaba said that employers were still going into business for the money they could make, not for the jobs they could create, and this was no longer acceptable. He thought that a R1 million fine was not punitive, but was a corrective measure if there was not care taken in the trading. He added that information was hidden in times of investigations, and questioned how then to find honesty, and build trust without such honesty.

Mr D Kekana (ANC) said that international best practice was mentioned in vague terms, and it was not quite clear what was meant. He would have liked more specific information on what countries were being used for comparison. He was concerned by the comments about the inspectorate.

Mr E Lucas (IFP) added that perhaps there would be a problem in cooperative working, if the mining houses were motivated by money and the inspectorate acted like the police. He commented that much money was being spent on summits, but he questioned what was achieved. There was mention that the industry had worked so well in the past. However, the people in the industry had not all benefited. He suggested that the best experience was gained on the job. Unless timeframes were put in place, then time was being wasted.

Mr M Matlala (ANC) commented that the same issues were being raised in the presentations. He would like some elaboration on occupational diseases and whether there was a programme in place. He also questioned what was meant on page 7 of the presentation that the system “had served well”.

Mr C Molefe (ANC) said that these amendments had to do directly with people losing their lives, and he was worried that the commitment had not come out clearly enough. He questioned why, when mentioning the COM summit, only “some” CEOs had been involved. Most of the accidents were caused by human error, and not by natural forces. He agreed with the comments around the necessity for partnerships, but pointed out that this was not yet reached. He asked how ex-mineworkers could access the money that had been set aside for them. He pointed out that the issues had to be put into perspective – while families were grieving the loss of their family members, the mines were complaining about punitive action being taken in consequence of the loss of lives. He felt that the COM was trying to avoid actions being taken. 

Mr L Greyling (ID)  asked whether an analysis was done for the two years in which there had been increases in fatalities, and what the results of that were. He noted that many ex-mineworkers or their families did not know of amounts owing to them, particularly if they lived in rural areas, and he suggested that the mines should set up more accessible offices in those areas and run education campaigns.

Ms F Mathibela (ANC) wanted to know whether there was technology in place to prevent rockbursts. She also asked whether employers could be prosecuted even for a first-time offence, and whether there were inspectors in mines.

Mr M Nene (ANC) wanted to know whether there was data for ex-mineworkers.

The Chairperson proposed that in order that mines operate with utmost safety, the mine management should have routine inspections in the mines to check that all safety standards were being adhered to.

The Chamber of Mines responded in general to the questions and comments that were made. Dr Barker noted that the purpose of the CEO roundtable was that managers should “walk the talk”. However, he wanted to stress that it was more important to achieve commitment on the part of management to improve for the right reasons, rather than merely to comply with legislation. He mentioned the example of a CEO and management of a particular mine who did, as the Chairperson had suggested, go down into the mines and check the safety, and that this had shown results. This was something COM would like all mines to commit to. The philosophy should be to prevent accidents. The COM was in the process of developing a strategy with partners and the CEO’s, and as part of that, it wished to learn from best practices by other companies in other countries, so as further to develop the strategy to prevent accidents. He added that there was not a need to be concerned with other sectors, but rather to focus on mining.

Dr Barker noted that there was a good relationship with the NUM. He noted that at this round table conference, the focus had been on speaking to the CEOs so that their commitment could be obtained. After that, there would be a tripartite summit. He felt that there were instances of non-compliance and that it was something that needed to be addressed. The COM initiative was to make mines comply. He added that there was a need to investigate and address the unsafe conditions, and indicated that Mine Health and Safety representatives should also point out unsafe conditions, and be properly trained. He noted that the “hiding of information” was a very important point. If the legislation were to become too punitive then more people would try to hide information in order to protect themselves. He noted, in answer to Mr Greyling, that the COM was not sure why there had been an increase in fatalities for the two years, as it did not have enough information. There needed to be a proper system of peer review. People should be willing to share information. He said that the milestones needed to be based on international best practices from other countries such as Australia, Canada and the United States. Their seismicity studies had involved international experts. The facilitator for the CEO roundtable was also an international expert. International CEO’s would also be involved to give their expertise.

Dr Barker felt that there should be more skilled inspectors, and that they should be based at the mines to see that mines complied. Scarcity of skills also affected mines. He reiterated COM’s willingness to train those inspectors. He reiterated also that there needed to be a peer review system to learn from companies, in order to see how and why they improved, and the CEO of one company could learn from another. Partnerships should be established not only at top levels, but also at mine level. The benefits from mining were being spread into the community, to BEE partners, to skills development, to rural areas and the country as a whole. He said that there was a broad timeframe for milestones, set at 2013, but that specific timeframes needed to be set for individuals.

Dr Barker noted that it was not quite correct that the same issues were being raised – for instance the new initiatives, the best practice studies, the seismicity studies and the CEO roundtable had not been discussed before.  He agreed with Mr Molefe that all CEOs, not just some, needed to commit, and they needed also to recognise that this was the right thing to do. Mining companies needed to take personal responsibility for what happened on their mines. He agreed that most of the accidents were “man-made” and that was when CEOs started pointing fingers. He agreed with Mr Greyling that lengthening the sentences would not stop the crime; a proper system was needed with proper partnerships. 

Mr van der Woude touched further on the issue of people not being willing to give evidence if it was likely to incriminate them, and stressed that there was a need to access fully accurate information, to try to prevent accidents recurring. He said that he was not suggesting that the evidence could not be called for again in civil proceedings instituted subsequent to the enquiry into the accidents, but he was saying that the enquiry proceedings should not simply be taken across and used to incriminate anyone. He agreed that there needed to be a punitive element, but said that the fear of criminal prosecution was in itself very serious. The size of the fine was not the issue; instead there should be certainty that contravention would lead to prosecution, and that where a prosecution was instituted, so the system was seen to work. However, he did not feel that a person should be punished several times for the same offence under different systems.

A representative from COM reported that South Africa had the deepest level of mining in the world. If South Africa could sort out the safety issues of deep level mining, it could become the benchmark of safe deep level mining in the world. The COM had commissioned a study for seismic and rockbursts. CSIR was ready to release those results and COM would act on the recommendations. He commented that tripartism had served the COM well. COM was a very important institution to South Africa, and a unique institution in the world. It contributed to the reduction in the fatality rate. The ultimate target was to have zero diseases, zero fatalities and zero injuries, and it would look to lowering the fatality rate by 20% per annum. New and better skills at all levels would lead to improvement.

Dr Fazel Randera, Health Adviser, Chamber of Mines, stressed that COM was aiming for prevention. He noted that in 1999, 1% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) went to health and safety, amounting to about R18 billion. He said that the current emphasis was on conserving the hearing of miners, and the best practice was directed towards purchasing different equipment. He noted that between 60 000 and 80 000 mineworkers who drilled were using a compression drill in the past, but the new electrical drills showed advantages in noise levels, water and power used. The intention was to take best practice into every mine. There was great emphasis on how to change the work culture, and on prevention.

Dr Randera then discussed the ex-mineworker project, noting that this was aimed at people who had worked in the mining industry, who had exposure to silica. The relevant occupational legislation provided that workers be examined on a two-yearly basis, but this was not happening. A project was therefore started in Kwazulu Natal, where about 10 000 to 15 000 ex-mineworkers were living. The intention was that this not be seen as a once-off, that the occupational health care services based in a government health care centre would provide service on an ongoing basis, so that workers could be encouraged to attend their two-yearly examination. The ex-mineworker project aimed to facilitate the access to compensation and provide a better health care service. He noted that the data had been extracted from research and post-mortem autopsies, as well as from mining companies.   

The Chairperson thanked COM for their constructive approach.

Mr Vundisa asked CSIR whether they had any relationship with the working classes, as there was no reference to them in the submission.

Dr Vogt said that the CSIR had a relationship with NUM in the past, particularly in regard to training, but the CSIR’s main client was the Mine Health and Safety Council, and interaction with the other parties was done through this channel of communication.

Mr Mahlaba questioned whether research was still provided for in the new Bill, and whether CSIR was to provide that service.

Dr Vogt asked that Members have regard to clause 7 of the Bill. CSIR actually undertook the largest amount of mining research and best able to speak for the mining industry. CSIR would therefore prefer that research funding be directed at the CSIR and was concerned that research funding was actually diminishing.

Mr Greyling noted that he was also very concerned about the decrease in funding for research, and wanted to know whether there was anything that could be done.

Dr Vogt said that CSIR wished to establish a larger body, and positioned themselves at the start of a debate on the issue. 

The Chairperson wanted to know what the relationship was between CSIR and Mintek. 

Dr Vogt replied that Mintek handled the research on specimens after the rocks were extracted from the ground. CSIR’s research was directed towards getting the rocks out of the ground. 

National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) submission
The NUM delegate told the Committee that the existing legal framework for promoting mining safety had been inadequate. Mining accidents had occurred frequently, for which no specific individual or agency could be held responsible. The development of adequate mine rescue services had also been neglected. Many mine workers could still have been alive if mine rescue operations had been more prompt and efficient, so it was imperative that mine rescue services must be transformed.

The NUM wished to comment also on clause 31, regarding penalties for negligence. The NUM believed that it was important to keep engagements around accidents simple. NUM had visited mines where there were indications that there could be improvements to the quality of safety for miners. The NUM took the view that the lives of workers were irreplaceable, that the Constitution guaranteed the right to life, and strong measures were needed to ensure that this was upheld. A criminal prosecution could be instituted if the inquest following a fatal accident was held by a judicial officer. NUM believed that the proposed fine of R1 million would send a strong message to management. The deduction of 10% of mine turnover where there had been a fatal accident could act as a deterrent. Since 2000, an average of 200 mine workers per year had died. If a single mine manager were actually to receive a jail sentence, NUM believed that this could be strong contributor to change. Mining companies were spending millions on their operations, but not on safety. A severe problem was that industrial machinery was designed so that human beings must adapt to it, and not the other way around. Workers, especially those from traditional backgrounds who had not grown up with machinery, were endangered by it. There was still a hangover of the notion that black life was cheap and this had to be changed. In terms of safety, the NUM saw the European Union (EU) as the benchmark. NUM concluded that the mining industry paid lip service to the promotion of health, but this did not find its way into practice.

Ms Mathibela referred to the fact that mine workers had in the past been treated as numbers in a total workforce, rather than as individual people. She asked about the possibility of spending money that was currently used to recruit workers from neighbouring states on safety.

The NUM representative replied that it was indeed true that until recently mine workers were known solely by their clock numbers. Society tended to be reluctant to associate with mineworkers, particularly coal-miners, who were seen as dirty. However, all workers were now listed by names and surnames, and NUM had tracing mechanisms, although the tracing could sometimes prove difficult in certain regions. NUM was exploring methods of getting former miners to benefit from claims,  notably through the establishment of community service formations, especially in needy areas. Further social investment was needed .

Mr Mahlaba asked if the Chamber of Mines and NUM held meetings on safety, and whether there was a give and take situation between them.

The NUM delegate replied that there were efforts to build a relationship. He pointed out that in a socialist framework, permanent class contradictions existed between a bourgeois class interested in profit, and the working class. The Chamber of Mines and NUM sat on a Council together, but there was a lack of tangible results. NUM had interrogated the faults in existing structures, but noted that whenever a call went out for more stringent safety measures, management tended to see this as punitive. Dealing with such contradictions was problematic. On the other hand, too much co-operation could result in a merry-go-round situation where little change would occur.

Mr Mahlaba asked if anything was being done to identify mines that were repeat offenders in terms of safety.

The delegate replied that accidents had indeed been matched to companies.

Mr Mahlaba asked about the right of the worker to absent himself from danger in the workplace.

The delegate replied that there were bonus systems in place, which implied that a worker would forfeit extra income if he absented himself from a danger zone. The continuous operation system compounded this problem, since it demanded the constant presence of workers at certain points. Safety had to be measurable, but the mining houses remained unresponsive in this regard.

South African Mining Development Association (SAMDA) presentation
The delegate apologised that Ms Bridget Radebe, President of SAMDA, was unable to be present as she had hoped.

He noted that SAMDA represented  “junior mining”, a term used to describe small-scale mining operations. He said that the Bill could pose problems for small miners, if it imposed further bureaucracy. SAMDA promoted the emergence of people who could not prosper under the old dispensation. He pointed out that in the former regime, blacks were barred from all but the most general work in mining, and were, for instance, unable to get blasting tickets. Junior mining companies were generally cash-strapped when compared to the big companies. SAMDA wanted a venture capital fund to assist them, along the lines of the Land Bank for farmers. Because the punitive aspects of the Bill could have an effect on small miners, SAMDA was asking for some form of exemption. Some of these mines consisted of as little as ten people. Some SAMDA members did not have the capacity to train members in accordance with the requirements of the Bill. There were some workers employed who could neither read nor write. SAMDA therefore proposed that 45 days be allowed for investigation into such matters.

SAMDA further pointed out that it would not always be possible for members to afford the costs of the occupational medical practitioners called for in the Bill. The issuing of health and safety permits could challenge junior mines.

SAMDA further requested a clarification of the wording of clause 11 that dealt with the Hazard System. He added that SAMDA members had not yet experienced fatalities.

SAMDA noted that it did support the punitive system in principle, but did not know how to go about making enforcement possible. The delegate suggested a weighted scorecard system, where offences would earn punishment similar to loss of licences.

The Chairperson suggested that small mining concerns be taken into consideration in the drafting of the Bill, as this was an affirmative type of mining.

Mr Mahlaba remarked that junior mines were part of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) and that there had to be backing available to ensure that they too were safe. Safety issues could not be taken lightly.

A delegate of NUM suggested that all the mines be nationalised.

The Chairperson asked, to the accompaniment of laughter, what was to be done in the transitional period.

The delegate of NUM replied that there could not be a dual system. NUM could not organise junior mining, nor would it support a black bourgeoisie. SAMDA was therefore advised to get mentors from the senior mines. 

Ms Mathibela referred to the statement that some junior mining workers could not read nor write. She feared that there was a possibility that such people could be exploited. She agreed with the NUM that there could not be two separate systems.

An ANC member remarked that that the junior mines seemed to be in a position where it was hard for them to move forward. Prospecting needed assistance, and it was clear that the small mining enterprises were, from the very start out, challenged by the legislation.

The Chairperson said that the issue was whether there should be exemption for junior mines or not. Promotion of small mining operations should not promote death or the lowering of standards. A critical balance had to be maintained.

Mr Kekana said that South Africa had traditionally had two economies. Under apartheid there were restrictions that forced blacks to stay in the employment of whites, and barred them from participating in the formal economy as independent entrepreneurs. Business activity was forced to remain small-scale and was relegated to the informal economy.

An ANC member insisted that worker safety could not be compromised because an enterprise formed part of BEE initiatives. Junior mining had to get health and safety funding.

The Chairperson remarked that these points were highlighting the importance of public hearings.

Mr Mahlaba encouraged a sympathetic approach to junior mining. The question was what financial muscle the government could provide. More knowledge of junior mining was needed, although he agreed that there should be one yardstick for safety.

The Chairperson said that the Department would monitor these issues.

The SAMDA representative said that a new breed of mining entrepreneurs were to be found in junior mining. National Treasury had been engaged, but they were reluctant to move on the issue. SAMDA supported the Bill, but wanted it noted that it could impact to the detriment of its members. The provisions of the Bill could be another impediment to starting up. Black South Africans had never been part of mining outside of selling their labour. Some junior mines were in fact family businesses, run with no formal training. In some cases mining was seasonal, and the family would, for instance, farm the land when weather conditions did not permit mining. SAMDA had 48 paid up members. SAMDA noted that in respect of workers with low literacy levels, it co-operated with the Mining Qualification Authority.

The Chairperson said that the matter posed a challenge that had to be work-shopped.

A State Law Adviser said that the size of an enterprise was taken into account when legislation was enforced.

The public hearings were adjourned.

Note: PMG was not present for discussions on the National Energy Bill.

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