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South Africa’s Mining Sector Invests R46m to Eradicate Fatal Accidents

Action Plan Launched to Combat Mine Safety Hazards

by Adenike Adeodun

South Africa’s mining sector is taking a decisive step towards enhancing safety by investing R46 million in a comprehensive action plan aimed at eradicating fall-of-ground (FoG) fatalities. Spearheaded by the Minerals Council South Africa, the initiative leverages the expertise of the Rock Engineering Technical Committee, alongside contributions from the South African National Institute of Rock Engineering, the Association of Mine Managers of South Africa, and the South Africa Colliery Managers’ Association.

During a day of learning at the Emperors Palace Convention Centre, covered by Mining Weekly, Minerals Council South Africa CEO Mzila Mthenjane underscored the industry’s commitment to achieving zero fatalities. “We know it is possible to restrict fall-of-ground deaths to six and so certainly, from where we are today, the next breakthrough must be zero fatalities. We cannot aspire for anything less than that,” Mthenjane stated.

The FoG action plan is structured around six core pillars: the adoption of leading practices, research and development, human resource development, policy considerations, operational discipline, and meticulous monitoring of the allocated R46-million budget. This multi-faceted approach aims to foster a safer mining environment through technological innovation, improved regulatory frameworks, and enhanced worker skills and awareness.

Key components of the strategy include the introduction of improved underground workplace visibility, the implementation of permanent workface aerial mesh protection, and the potential use of hydropowered drills and drill guides. These technological advancements are expected to significantly reduce the risk of FoG incidents, which predominantly occur in the stope face and account for 60% of related fatalities and injuries.

In pursuit of this goal, the industry is exploring the development of hazard warning systems, loose rock scanners, and wearable exoskeleton devices. These exoskeletons are designed to support various body parts during physically demanding tasks, potentially reducing the energy expenditure of workers when lifting heavy objects or using cumbersome tools.

Moreover, the action plan promises to enhance skills development and update educational materials, contributing to the overall safety and efficiency of mining operations. The initiative has already led to the introduction of the Isidingo drill, a device that is lighter, more energy-efficient, and easier to handle than traditional pneumatic drills. This innovation not only improves the safety and well-being of miners but also facilitates a more gender-diverse workforce by reducing the physicality required in mining activities.

Hydropower technology is also being harnessed to achieve precision drilling, which can optimize fragmentation, increase drilling speed, and potentially reduce the time miners spend underground. The next step involves creating adaptable drill guides suitable for various underground conditions.

The journey towards zero fatalities demands a concerted effort, best practices, and a collaborative approach, where the commitment to safety is paramount. By leveraging innovation and technology, the South African mining industry aims to significantly reduce the occurrence of FoG incidents, ensuring that more workers return safely to their families. This initiative represents a critical investment in the future of mining safety, emphasizing the industry’s resolve to place safety first—always.


Source: Mining Weekly

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