Mine health & safety


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.


Safety performance:

» 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 theMine 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 theMining 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.

( Information source: http://www.dmr.gov.za/mine-health-a-safety.html )