South Africa accounts for half of mine deaths among ICMM members in 2021

THE International Council on Mining & Metals’ (ICMM’s) Safety Performance Report for 2021 doesn’t make pleasant reading for South Africa’s mining sector with about half of total member fatalities recorded in the country.

South African member companies registered a total of 22 fatalities last year with the US comprising for four of the total 43 recorded. This compares to 44 total fatalities in 2020 and 287 in 2019 owing to the losses as a result of the Brumadinho tailings dam collapse.

After fatalities caused by mobile equipment, the next largest cause of death was falls of ground which has been identified as a chief cause of events by the Minerals Council South Africa, and is linked to the depth at which South Africa’s precious metals industry operates.

Sibanye-Stillwater is especially vulnerable in this regard. The ICMM said the South African firm recorded 16 incidents which caused 20 fatalities, 46% of total fatalities. Eleven ICMM members (42%) recorded no fatalities during 2021, it said.

The Minerals Council is due to hold and health and safety day on Wednesday where specific country-level data and intention-setting is expected to be discussed.

The ICMM recognized work done by the Minerals Council in this regard. The ICMM’s president and CEO, Rohitesh Dhawan commented that: “Of the eight fall of ground fatalities recorded, six occurred in South Africa”.

“The Minerals Council has focused its efforts on fall of ground incidents, and this could be a driver in the reduction of these fatalities,” he said.

As a whole, South Africa’s mine safety performance regressed for the second consecutive year in 2021, with a 23% increase in reported fatalities, compared with 2020, according to data published on the Minerals Council’s website.

Nonetheless, between 1995 and 2021, the number of fatalities overall declined by 75% with fall-of-ground fatalities in particular declining by 85%, it said.

“The year 2021 saw 74 fatalities reported, compared with 60 fatalities during the previous year, a 23% regression. This was a second consecutive regression in the number of fatalities reported in the industry following the 60 fatalities reported in 2020,” it said.

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