UASA has emphasised several times in the past, as it did again in March last year, that although Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act has no doubt saved many lives, the current indiscriminate application thereof should be reviewed because of the damage to the economy.
Currently, all the activities at a mine are halted when an incident occurs, even if it only affects one specific plant or a workplace. According to Franz Stehring, UASA’s Divisional Manager responsible for the mining workers' sector, calculations show that each day of zero production mean losses of approximately R6 million per day which directly affect profits. Quantifying the potential loss to the three main mining houses over the period of one year means that the mining industry loses approximately a whopping R3,24 billion per annum.
According to Mining mx, the statistics on safety-related stoppages at Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), and for the mining industry in general, there were 32 safety-related stoppages at its mines in the fourth quarter of 2011. That means that every third day, one of the company’s shafts lay idle. In addition, mine inspectors suspend the certificates of competence of supervisors and managers without following due procedure as prescribed by the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000 (PAJA), rendering those involved unable to perform their work.
We are experiencing a very unbalanced situation in this respect, says Franz Stehring, UASA’s Divisional Manager responsible for the mining workers' sector. DMR’s intervention in this matter is long overdue. While we fight hard for safe working conditions for our members and cannot allow one of them to perish, application of Section 54 needs to be revised so that a balance can be struck between mining safety on the one hand and profit on the other. We therefore welcome the appointment of a task team to investigate the subject matter.
On Friday, an announcement was made that an investigation into the implementation of Section 54 orders will be conducted by a task team which will be appointed. UASA will be represented on this task team by Stehring, the most senior and knowledgeable person in the union on mining safety and related matters.
What we are asking for is that whenever there are incidents on mines inspectors should do what the act tells them to do. They must first assess the situation and only thereafter decide which sections of the mine should be closed for operation.
Currently, the opposite happens. The inspectors arrive at a mine and without hesitation simply close down the whole mine, causing all operations to stop and lay idle for a good number of days with management forced to sit down and write reports.
UASA’s position is that the least restrictive measures should be implemented whenever a Section 54 order stands to be issued.