Mining giants make progress in tackling crippling TB epidemic, HIV

South Africa's mining industry has recorded a 3% decrease in the total number of occupational diseases reported nationally for 2017 compared with the previous year.

"We are sure that one reason for the improvement is the effectiveness of the Masoyise iTB campaign, where government, organised labour and the industry are working closely to increase screening and testing for tuberculosis and HIV not only among employees but also in the communities where they live," the Minerals Council said in a statement.  

Mine workers are at a higher risk of contracting TB due to prolonged exposure to silica dust, poor living conditions, and high HIV prevalence in mining communities.

The main goal of the Masoyise iTB campaign is to achieve a TB incidence rate in mining that is equal to or better than the country’s incidence rate.

Significant progress is being made towards meeting that goal, noted the Minerals Council.

In 2016, TB incidence in the South African mining industry was 900 cases per 100 000 of the workforce, down from 1 200 cases per 100 000 in 2013.

This is still higher than South Africa’s general TB incidence rate which was 781 cases per 100 000 people in 2016.

The industry has set itself the target of being at or below the South African TB incidence by 2024.

"The Minerals Council and the industry as a whole remain committed to continuing to work with our social partners on all matters of health and safety towards minimising injury and illness to our employees’ work," said Minerals Council Vice President Andile Sangqu on Friday.

The council also acknowledged the historic class action silicosis and TB settlement reached last May involving gold miners.

"We note that there are certain legal conditions that need to be fulfilled before the settlement agreement can be implemented."

The Department of Mineral Resources announced on Friday an overall decrease in fatalities across all mine categories from 2017 and 2018, with a particularly large increase in the platinum sector.

Chief inspector of mines at the department, David Msiza, announced 81 fatalities in 2018 compared to 90 in 2017.

He congratulated to the platinum sector for a "59% improvement in fatalities".

"Over the past 10 years and even 25 years, we agreed as a sector that there can be no improvement if we don’t work together. The measures introduced have allowed for a 90% improvement in the past 25 years," said Msiza.

"No loss of life is acceptable and we always remember that the passing of a mineworker has a massive impact on family members and colleagues," the Minerals Council said in response to the report.

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