A SURGE in fatal mine accidents in Zimbabwe has ignited concern among stakeholders, highlighting the need for enhanced safety measures within the mining industry.
According to a survey by the Chamber of Mines of Zimbabwe (CoMZ), 110 fatalities have been recorded in the country’s mines between January and September 2023, an increase from 106 accidents recorded during the same period last year.
Large-scale mining operations accounted for 18 percent of the total number of accidents reported during the period under review. Of these accidents, 80 percent occurred in underground operations.
Illegal mining operations, on the other hand, contributed 22 percent to the total number of accidents, while small to medium mining operations were responsible for a staggering 60 percent.
These figures paint a grim picture of the safety situation in Zimbabwe’s mining sector. The high prevalence of accidents in small to medium mining operations is particularly concerning, given the informal and often unregulated nature of these activities.
“A deliberate holistic approach is needed to reduce fatalities and the Government needs to swiftly move to ensure mining companies adhere to high safety standards to ensure the safety of the employees,” Mr Steward Nhengo, a health and safety consultant, told The Herald Finance and Business in an interview.
Mr Nhengo emphasised the importance of a comprehensive approach to safety, encompassing regulatory enforcement, training, and investment in safer technologies.
He also called for greater support for small to medium-mining operations to improve safety standards in the mining sector. The CoMZ said the industry had adopted a “zero harm” initiative to eliminate accidents and fatalities in mining operations.
“Most mines have adopted zero harm initiatives which include occupational safety and health accidents promotion and environmental protection,” said the CoMZ survey, a product of insights generated from interviews with mining executives.
“Collaboration between the Chamber of Mines and other mining organisations is expected to entrench the zero harm initiatives to reduce fatal accidents and other negative impacts on society,” it added.
It said the mining industry under the Safety Health and Environment Committee of the Chamber of Mines also conducts initiatives to promote continual improvement of safety performance.
These include Safety Health and Environment (SHE) audits, first aid competitions, mine rescue competitions SHE seminars and workshops. Occupational health.
The mining industry is also actively engaged in the regional initiative to reduce the burden of TB in mines under the TB in Mines initiative supported by the Global Fund.
The Chamber of Mines Safety Health and Environment Committee is spearheading awareness campaigns in other health areas including HIV and Cancer awareness programmes.
Industry stakeholders urged the Government to ensure mining firms, particularly those involved in small to medium operations, adhere to all safety regulations. This may include regular inspections of mining sites and imposing penalties for non-compliance.
In addition, all miners, regardless of the scale of their operations, should receive comprehensive safety training. This training should cover hazard identification, risk prevention, and emergency response procedures, the stakeholders said. The adoption of modern mining technologies can significantly reduce the risk of accidents.
“Profit maximisation has taken precedence over worker safety in the mining industry,” secretary general of the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Workers Union of Zimbabwe Justice Chinhengo.
“Companies are neglecting to invest in essential health and safety technologies, resulting in a tragic loss of life. Moreover, unqualified individuals are being assigned to critical mining positions that demand experienced and qualified personnel. “We’ve observed blatant disregard for established safety regulations without any repercussions from the Government.”