'Technology will improve mine safety'


It is hoped the introduction of better mining technology will improve mine safety, AngloGold Ashanti said on Tuesday.

"We think that's the ultimate answer, to take people out of those dangerous areas," CEO Mark Cutifani said at a Mining for Change seminar in Johannesburg.

Last Friday, the company drilled an extra 30 metres into a section of reef, for the first time in 100 years, using a horizontal raised drill. This could revolutionise mining, said Cutifani.

He was speaking as another company, Gold Fields, said a fire at the weekend at its KDC mines near Carletonville, which killed five miners, was still burning.

Cutifani said one aspect of keeping mines safe was breaking old patterns, such as people not knowing each other's first names because they came from different regions, and spoke different languages.

In an attempt to change the nature of personal relationships at its mines, the company was taking every crew away for a period together so people could get to know each other, and change the nature of their working relationships.

"It's a total transformation of the way we work together," he said.

In the meantime, the company was focusing on leadership, training, and development to prevent accidents.

The company had improved its safety record over the last four-and-a-half years by over 70 percent, he said.

In its results for the quarter ending March 2012, posted on the company's website, the group's fatal injury frequency rate had "regressed" from 0.02 in the December quarter to 0.11 in the March quarter.

There were four deaths -- two at KDC resulting from an electrocution and a fall of ground, and at Beatrix, where there was a shaft conveyance incident and a drilling accident.

According to provisional figures from the mineral resources department, 63 people had died in mine fatalities since January 1, 2012. There had been 1425 injuries.

The National Union of Mineworkers had suggested that mining bosses be made criminally liable for these deaths.

ANC MP Faith Bikana, who serves on Parliament's portfolio committee on mineral resources, told the seminar that action such as that "depends on the situation".

She said as much as zero tolerance was a goal, some accidents were inevitable. But better technology could help detect problems sooner, such as a fall of ground.

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