Mine safety laws often not adhered to, says official

Results of a nationwide safety audit of South African mines were "worrying" because they showed a low level of safety compliance, a top government mining official told parliament yesterday.

Results of a nationwide safety audit of South African mines were "worrying" because they showed a low level of safety compliance, a top government mining official told parliament yesterday.

Thabo Gazi, the chief inspector of mines at the minerals and energy department said during a briefing on a new mine safety bill: "We've been doing this presidential audit and the results would be out soon and they are worrying. They are worrying because generally levels of compliance in our industry is low."

Gazi said the audit, which targeted 333 high risk and targeted mines, was close to being finalised and was expected to be handed over to President Thabo Mbeki in mid-July.

The audit was ordered by Mbeki after an accident last year which trapped 3200 workers at Harmony Gold's Elandsrand mine underground for close to 48 hours. The incident highlighted mine safety issues, coming after a string of fatal accidents which, according to Gazi, has reached a "plateau" of about 200 fatalities a year after dropping from 1000 deaths a year in 1987 to 500 in 1997.

The new Mine Health and Safety Amendment bill, still to be debated in parliament and signed by Mbeki before becoming law, sought to improve safety by strengthening enforcement.

It proposed raising non-compliance fines to R1million from R200000 and set timelines for mines to conduct their own accident investigations, with reports to be handed over within 30 days of an accident.

Gazi said these company-produced accident reports would not be used as a basis for legal action against employers. - Reuters

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