Decrease in worker deaths at S.African mines

Death rates began falling in 2016 when the sector recorded just 73
Mine Rescue Team
Members of the Mine Rescue team looks at the entrance of the disused Langlaagte gold mine shaft entrance, where an unknown amount of “Zama Zama’s” (illegal miners) are trapped on September 11, 2016 in Johannesburg. – Emergency workers Sunday were striving to rescue illegal miners trapped underground in Johannesburg’s oldest gold mine, a spokesman said. The diggers, whose numbers are unclear, are said to have been trapped in the disused mine since September 7. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP)

Worker deaths at mines in South Africa dropped by around 10 percent last year to 81, down from 90 a year earlier, government statistics showed on Friday.

South Africa’s mines, which are among the deepest in the world, were notorious in the last century for being some of the most dangerous, claiming an average of 200 lives a year.

A third of the deaths were caused by rockfalls, while the others were caused by accidents, ranging from heat exhaustion and gas poisoning to transport-related fatalities.

Death rates began falling in 2016 when the sector recorded just 73 in what was “the lowest ever number of fatalities on record”.

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The following year it climbed to 90, with most of them recorded in the gold sector. 

“We are therefore encouraged that in 2018 we are beginning to see a turnaround,” the mineral resources ministry said.

“We are hopeful that this is the beginning of a much-needed turnaround in fatalities.”

Andile Sangqu, vice president of the Minerals Council, a representative body of mining companies, said “efforts to improve” would continue but warned there was “no grounds for complacency”. 

The highest number of deaths last year was in the gold sector, which logged 40 fatalities, followed by the platinum mines where 12 died, while nine lost their lives in the coal sector.

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The rest occurred in diamond, chrome, copper and iron ore mining operations.

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