About Mine Health & Safety
South Africa produces 10% of the world’s gold, and has 40% of the world’s known resources. It is estimated that 36 000 tons (t) of undeveloped resources – about one third of the world’s unmined gold – still remains. These ores are increasingly difficult to exploit due to the great depths where they are situated and their fairly low-grade quality.
The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate was established in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act No. 29 of 1996), as amended, for the purpose of executing the statutory mandate of the Department of Mineral Resources to safeguard the health and safety of mine employees and communities affected by mining operations.
The Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate strives towards a safe and healthy mining industry. This is to be achieved by reducing mining related deaths, injuries and ill health through the formulation of national policy and legislation, the provision of advice, and the application of systems that monitor and enforce compliance with the law in the mining sector.
Milestones of the 2003 Mine Health and Safety Summit
• In the Gold Sector:
Achieve safety performance levels equivalent to current international benchmarks for underground metalliferous mines, at the least, by 2013.
• In the Platinum, Coal and Other Mines’ Sectors:
Achieve constant and continuous improvement equivalent to current international benchmarks, at the least, by 2013.
Elimination of silicosis:
• By December 2008, 95% of all exposure measurement results will be below the occupational exposure limit for respirable crystalline silica of 0.1mg/m3 (these results are individual readings and not average results).
• After December 2013, using present diagnostic techniques, no new cases of silicosis will occur among previously unexposed individuals. Previously unexposed individuals are individuals unexposed prior to 208, that is, equivalent to a new person entering the industry in 2008.
Elimination of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss:
• The present noise exposure limit stated in the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996) Regulations is no more than 85dBL.
• After December 2008, the hearing conservation programme implemented by the industry must ensure that there is no deterioration in hearing greater than 10% amongst occupationally exposed individuals.
• By December 2013, the total noise emitted by all equipment installed in any workplace must not exceed a sound pressure level of 110 dB (A) at any location in that workplace (including individual pieces of equipment).
The Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act No. 29 of 1996) as amended, provides for the protection of the health and safety of employees and other persons affected by the South African mining industry and, amongst others, provides for the promotion of a culture of health and safety as well as the enforcement of health and safety measures or legislation. The activities of the Inspectorate are geared to achieve the following strategic objectives:
• Actively contribute to sustainable development and growth;
• Regulate the minerals sector;
• Promote health and safety in the minerals sector;
• Efficient and effective service delivery;
• Culture, systems and people; and
• Ensure financial stewardship.
The main functions of the Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate are the provision of policy inputs for the establishment and application of mine safety standards at mining operations, and promote the application thereof; policy inputs towards the establishment and application of mine equipment safety standards at mining operations, and promote their application; the establishment and application of mine health standards at mining operations and the promotion of these applications; and ensuring an effective support and inspection service.
The Inspectorate is headed by the Chief Inspector of Mines, who is also the Chairperson of the Boards of the Mine Health and Safety Council and the Mining Qualifications Authority. The Chief Inspector of Mines has the responsibility of leading the tripartite structures established by the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996), as amended, and representatives of Government, employees and employers’ organizations serve on these tripartite structures. The Mine Health and Safety Council furthermore advises the Minister of Mineral Resources on health and safety issues and promotes a health and safety culture in the mining sector, while the Mining Qualifications Authority is responsible for addressing the education and training needs of the minerals and mining sector.
There has been a steady improvement in safety performance of the South African Mining industry during the past 10 years. But all stakeholders agree that the fatality and injury rates remain high, especially in underground gold mines. Coal, platinum and other commodity mines have shown a satisfactory performance in relation to international benchmarks. This necessitated a concerted effort to improve the prevention of occupational accidents.
The prevention of occupational diseases has received increased attention in the years following the Leon Commission of Inquiry (1994) and the coming into effect of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996), as amended.
There has been a steady appreciation of the need to apply more resources to deal with occupational health matters. Tuberculosis associated with exposure to silica dust is a growing occupational health concern and is receiving priority attention in the mining industry. The increase in prevalence of HIV-infection has led to a doubling in new Tuberculosis cases and increased mortality. Noise Induced Hearing Loss has also been recognized as a major occupational health risk in the South African mining industry.
Tripartism in the mining industry
The Tripartite Mine Health and Safety Council was established in June 1997 in terms of Section 41(1) of the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996), as amended. The Mine Health and Safety Council consists of five members representing the State, employees and employers in the mining industry respectively.
• Advise the Minister of Mineral Resources on health and safety at mines;
The permanent committees of the Mine Health and Safety Council were established as statutory bodies on 30 June 1997, the date on which the Minister of Mineral Resources appointed the members. It is the statutory duty of the Council to advise the Minister on health and safety at mines and to co-ordinate the activities of its committees receive reports from these committees and liaise with the Mining Qualifications Authority.
The Mining Qualifications Authority (MQA)
The Mining Qualifications Authority consists of the State, employer and employee organizations in the mining industry; it was established as an outcome of the South African Qualification Authority Act, 1995, (Act 58 of 1995) and the Mine Health and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996), as amended. The Mining Qualifications Authority must advise the Minister of Mineral Resources about the generation and monitoring of education and training standards and qualifications for the mining industry, as part of the National Qualification Framework (NQF).
The Minister of Mineral Resources appoints the members of the Mining Qualifications Authority and the Mining Qualifications Authority governs itself.
The Mining Regulation Advisory Committee (MRAC)
Mining Regulation Advisory Committee was established as a voluntary tripartite committee before the promulgation of the Mine Heath and Safety Act, 1996 (Act 29 of 1996) as amended, to give effect to some recommendations by the Leon Commission of Inquiry (1994). From recommendations made by the Leon Commission of Inquiry (1994), the four areas of concern are:
• Fall of ground accidents;
• Accidents from haulage and transport underground;
• Occupational health; and
• Coal mine explosions and respirable dust.
The Mining Regulation Advisory Committee must advise the Mine Health and Safety Council on:
• Proposed changes to legislation to improve health or safety at mines;
• Proposals for changes to legislation made by any other committee of the Mine Health and Safety Council;
• Guidelines for Codes of Practice; and
• Standards approved by the South African Bureau of Standards.
Mining Occupational Health Advisory Committee (MOHAC)
The Mining Occupational Health Advisory Committee must advise the Mine Health and Safety Council on:
• Policy matters relating to health in the mining industry;
• Regulation on any aspect of health;
• Health research programmes; and
• The collection, processing and distribution of health data in the mining industry.
Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee (SIMRAC)
• Criteria for determining the funding of health and safety research;
Annually the Safety in Mines Research Advisory Committee prepares overall programmes for the relevant health and safety research to include:
• A review of health and safety performance in the different mining sectors;