The Department of Minerals and Energy is worried and concerned about the standard of safety at South African mines.
This was prompted by the release yesterday of the long-awaited report into the presidential mine safety audits which showed that overall safety in mines is a mere 66 percent.
The audits were conducted in 355 mines across the country, under 12 categories. Gold and coal mines were the safest at 70percent, followed by platinum and diamond mines at 67percent and 66percent respectively.
The categories included mine design, safety risk management, health risk management, mine explosives control and mine water management.
Speaking at a media briefing in Pretoria yesterday, Minerals and Energy Minister Buyelwa Sonjica said: "We are very concerned because the overall score is supposed to be 100percent. The industry has failed because this is about the lives of people.
"This is also a sensitive issue because these safety audits were prompted by what could have been the world's worst mining accident in history," she said.
The audits were ordered by former president Thabo Mbeki after 3200 workers were trapped underground at gold producer Harmony Gold's Elandsrand mine in 2007, when a falling pipe damaged shaft infrastructure.
Sonjica said areas which should be prioritised were mainly the maintenance of infrastructure and the training of miners for crisis management.
The Geoscience Council of SA will form an entity with the mines to probe and improve rock and blasting safety, she said.
Sipho Nkosi, president of the Chamber of Mines, said the chamber welcomed the report.
"It should also be noted that we have already been involved with our members and stakeholders on issues of mine safety. We will link the report with our existing safety programmes."
Health risk was rated the lowest among all categories, at 56percent.
Senzeni Zokwana, president of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), said there was zero tolerance for mine fatalities.
"No condition should justify why a worker should lose a life."
This was echoed by Frans Baleni, general secretary of the NUM, who said: "Safety is a constitutional right of the workers.
"We are positive that this report will contribute to the efforts which have already been made by all parties as far as mine safety is concerned."
The stakeholders are expected to meet in two weeks' time to give feedback on the report and come up with a way forward.