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28 NOVEMBER 2011

Safety stats on shaky ground

"Let it be said, fatalities are fatalities," says Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu. She was talking at the Mine Health and Safety Summit (MHSC) held on 17 November, at Emperor's Palace. She paid tribute to the 112 workers who lost their lives in the mining industry this year, including but not limited to the 69 000 who died between 1900 and 1994, and more than one-million who suffered from one form of injury or another.

"The death of almost 74 000 workers in a period spanning 100 years is not something that should be taken for granted. It is an emergency and should be treated as such."

She hit out at the ‘rhetoric' displayed by some mine executives. "They would have us believe that they are still investigating the adoption of leading practices at their respective mines, while the lives of employees who could be saved through the implementation of existing technology continue to be lost.

"I, for one, do not understand how mining companies that make billions in profits fail even to buy the latest available and proven ground movement monitoring and detection equipment. These can cut down the number of potential fatalities considering the fact that this equipment is widely available and has been used by the civil engineering industry for a number of years.

"Is this asking too much," she says. "Do mining companies have to wait for us to set the minimum standards that they should adhere to? Are these not the very executives who complain about the regulatory regime and who suggest that we are over regulating? Are we perhaps not having a situation where profits and margins matter more than human lives?"

Referring to the recent ‘march for safety' Shabangu says that even though government welcomes initiatives such as this one, however symbolic and noble, "these will not, of their own, stop the carnage on our mines. We have been reminded of this sad truth by the fact that since that ‘fateful' march, we have lost a further 14 workers."

.... And so industry has recorded eight fatalities up to 21 November - by electrocution, a runaway dumptruck, blasting, a winch, leg caught between shaft conveyance and platform ... and the list goes on.
The Inspectorate has been urged to up its pressure on industry, not a bad thing, MQ thinks!

21 NOVEMBER 2011

BME’s explosives conference – a resounding success

South Africa has one of the highest lightning cloud-to-ground strike rates in the world. It is also one of the areas in the world that routine handling of explosives for mining purposes occurs on a daily basis. The question is: What happens when explosives are on the block and a storm threatens and lightning begins to flash ominously?

This and other interesting questions were answered at the BME one-day conference held at the CSIR Conference Centre in early November. Acknowledged as one of the premier annual events on the mining calendar, the conference has grown to a record attendance this year with more than 300 delegates.

What impressed MQ is that the conference is offered free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis, as BME’s contribution towards growing understanding and improving skills in this vital sector of the economy. The calibre of speakers and attendees was particularly high, and this conference, which is the company’s 19th annual event, has grown from strength to strength, with a record attendance of more than 300 delegates.

14 NOVEMBER 2011

E-tagging – yes or no?

Sanral is moving ahead with its e-toll registration process, and has set up online and physical systems to facilitate registration for the Gauteng and national toll networks. Sanral has advised users to register for an e-tag linked to the vehicle’s number plate, to clarify for discounts of up to 31%. The packages are available at Checkers, Pick ‘n Pay and Shoprite stores and at various e-tag shops across Gauteng. Apparently the organisation is also deploying mobile registration units and kiosks.

However, the Automobile Association of South Africa (AA) has advised its members in Gauteng to delay this process, owing to ‘mixed signals coming from the Minister of Transport, the Gauteng Department of Transport and Sanral’. “The debate and final decision regarding urban tolling is far from over and it is for this reason that the AA is making its recommendation to members,” says AA public affairs head Gary Ronald.

He says the AA believes that the debt incurred so far for the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project should be serviced from a portion of the fuel levy over the term of the loans.


7 November 2011

Looking through the annual reports of three major construction companies, Aveng, Basil Read and WBHO, it seems that they are developing an increasing interest in the construction market in Australia, and all three have indicated their disappointment with  government’s infrastructure spend.

Aveng, for one, believes that the infrastructure market will most likely remain challenging in the next two years, and all three companies have stated their intentions of pursuing a greater number of international contracts.

If MQ recalls, government had its first Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Commission in September, and we sincerely hope that this isn’t another commission to investigate a commission that isn’t doing its job in the first place. Is this so-called commission going to facilitate the roll-out of the promised expenditure, or what?


31 October

Our industry can be proud of its safety stats, but let's not rest on our laurels because accidents can happen so easily. Did you know that in the larger mining industry in October, there were eight fatalities; the point being that these could easily have happened in our industry as well. These include a miner caught between a feeder breaker and a sidewall; a derailed rail truck which fell on top of a miner; a miner who was crushed between a chock canopy and pan line; a miner, who died after an 800 kg bin toppled over him; and an employee fatally injured by fire whilst grinding.

Could these have been avoided, and when last have you done your checks and balances?