Mines strive for zero fatalities

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Windhoek

Last year the Namibian mining industry experienced an improvement in lost-time injuries and fatalities, in exception of three serious accidents recorded with fatal consequences at Matchless, Marvest and Langer Heinrich mines.

During 2012/13, the mining sector saw the highest number of accidental deaths since independence with five mineworkers dying on duty.
As indicated in the Ministry of Mines and Energy 2013/14 annual report, even though there is an improvement compared to the five fatalities recorded in 2012/13, the ministry was working hard towards zero fatalities.

However on Monday Nora Ndopu the corporate affairs manager of Vedanta that owns Skorpion Zink mine announced the death of a contract employee Lukas Shikongo, aged 40.
Shikongo who was on duty at Rosh Pinah was fatally injured while performing routine maintenance work on Sunday at Namzinc operations.

The inspector of mines and the police have been notified and an investigation into the cause of the incident is underway. All mining activities within the affected area have been stopped until further notice.

‘On behalf of management and employees at Skorpion, I extend my sincere condolences to the family, colleagues and friends of Mr Shikongo,’ Ndopu quoted Prasad Suryarao, the general manager at Skorpion Zinc as having said.

‘Safety is our first priority at Skorpion and we will continue to strive to achieve zero harm within our operations,’ Suryarao further stated.

Previously recurring mine accidents prompted the Chamber of Mines of Namibia, in consultation with the ministry, to engage an international mining safety expert in 2012 to assess the Namibian mining industry’s safety standards.

“The expert has since provided recommendations for improvement. Shortcomings were shared with the mining industry operators and the general public by the chief inspector of mines and his team. The Ministry of Mines and Energy is implementing recommendations where possible,” the report states.

Furthermore, it indicated not all mine accidents were caused by negligence or contravention of the law by the mineral rights holder and that some were caused by the unsafe behaviour and negligence by individuals on site.

“Such as for example operating machinery without proper authorization, failure to follow safe working procedures, and not anchoring safety gear when working at heights,” states the report.
All three fatal accidents were procedurally investigated by the office of the chief inspector of mines. Two of those investigations were completed and findings were forwarded to the office of the prosecutor general for further action on whether to prosecute or not, depending on the reports.

The report also says there was an increase during 2013/14 in young Namibians acquiring blasting certificates for both open cast and underground mines.

This trend is most likely to continue proportionally with the increase in the number of mining and exploration licences, says the report.

Additionally it revealed non-compliance with provisions of the Minerals (Prospecting and Mining) Act by some exploration and mining companies as well as claim holders, which continues to be a challenge.

However, engagement with stakeholders has resulted in better understanding and improved compliance, it noted.

Moreover, the report highlighted a shortage of certain professionals, in particular that the absence of a legal expert in the Ministry of Mines and Energy has resulted in delays in finalizing certain legal matters, as well as challenges instituted by parties who feel aggrieved by the ministry’s sometimes unintentional actions.

In ensuring the protection of diamond resources, a total of 219 export or import and 55 488 restricted area permits were issued, indicating an increase of two percent and 45 percent respectively. In addition 134 Kimberly Process Certificates were issued during 2013/14.
No diamond licences were issued during 2013/14 due to the moratorium on the issuance of Diamond Act licences, which is still in place.

Further during 2013/14, about 268 exclusive prospecting licences (EPLs), 106 mining claims and 506 non-EPLs were issued.

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