‘Sub-standard equipment driving mining accidents’

08 Dec, 2022 - 00:12 0 Views
‘Sub-standard equipment driving mining accidents’ Accidents in the small-scale mining sector have been on the rise, resulting in loss of human lives due to sub-standard equipment (File Picture)

The Herald

Enacy Mapakame

Business Reporter

USE of rudimentary or sub-standard equipment is largely to blame for most of the accidents in small-scale mining and the Government has since intervened by undertaking nationwide risk assessment and awareness campaigns to reduce such misfortunes.

Cases of accidents in the small-scale mining sector have been on the rise, resulting in the loss of human lives due to the sub-standard equipment which makes it difficult to observe and adhere to standard safety practices.

While a huge gap still exists in terms of what small and artisanal miners require to operate more productively and with limited risk, the sector contributes significantly to the country’s mineral output, accounting for about 60 percent of gold.

A Government audit on occupational health and safety in the mines, has shown that there is inadequate monitoring of artisanal small and medium-scale mines resulting in most of them not complying with health and safety standards.

This is in addition to mines operating without regular inspections being carried out as well as lack of risk assessment policies and programmes at the mines.

Mines and Mining Development Secretary Pfungwa Kunaka said the Government was concerned with the rise in cases of accidents and was taking steps towards increasing occupational health and safety awareness campaigns.

“The first step is awareness across the country with the Department of Mining Engineering playing a critical role in this in terms of safety and environmental awareness. They are playing a key role of extension services, interacting with artisanal miners at their sites,” he said in an interview on the sidelines of the Association of Mine Managers of Zimbabwe (AMMZ) annual conference held recently in Victoria Falls.

“Another key issue that is also coming out is that people go for equipment which is sub-standard which is risky to use. So some of the safety issues we are concerned with has to do with the equipment they use

“We believe some of the equipment which is imported may not be able to meet the key standards. It is a requirement that every artisanal miner who buys equipment should have it inspected but this is not happening, so these are some of the challenges the sector faces and we are trying to address by carrying out inspections and risk assessment programmes,” he said.

In May this year, it was reported that seven mine workers were killed at a mine in Gwanda when the cork skip used in hoisting them to the surface fell down a 240-meter deep shaft after the wire rope snapped.

It was alleged the wire rope used to hoist the skip to the surface was below the required standard therefore risking lives of the workers.

Other cases of mine shafts collapsing and killing workers have been reported across the country.

Mr Kunaka also said that while efforts were being made to minimise accidents, some artisanal miners ignored the measures in order to quickly cash in on the gold deposits available at a particular site.

“Miners value time and money, sometimes they consider the inspection and commission of equipment a waste of time yet it is very important.

“Some of them quickly forget about the safety measures and move to the next area because they are not registered and are nomadic. They are here today and move to the next area the next day because they are in a rush for minerals,” said Mr Kunaka, adding that this created scope for more and continued efforts towards awareness campaigns across the country.

Mine incidents are not only experienced in the small-scale segment but also in big mining companies although the prevalence is lower.

AMMZ president Elton Gwatidzo said mining was a high risk sector which called for increased efforts towards safety and reduce the prevalence of accidents.

“Big mining companies are not immune to accidents; this is a high risk work industry. However, with large scale miners we have some level of investments towards safety to make sure we safeguard employees.

“In as much as we have accidents here and there, there are commendable efforts being done to minimise the impact of such and reduce them. We continue to work with various stakeholders to ensure such numbers continue to go down,” he said in an interview.

Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions has been identified as one of the ways that can be used to minimise accidents not only in mining but other sectors such as manufacturing.

 

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