In November 2006 Bobby Godsell, AngloGold Ashanti CEO, was quoted* as saying that there is no reason that the risk of harm should be greater in mining than it is in any other form of economic activity, and that while all human action involves a measure of risk, the challenge is to identify, understand and then manage this risk. Godsell said successful management of health and safety risks in mining requires good science to identify and understand the nature of risks in mining; engineering to remove or reduce the risks; and creating values, habits and behaviours which make every worker an effective manager of health and safety risk. But, he said, in 2006 AngloGold Ashanti had seen a disturbing regression in that progress in regard to accidents on its South African mines and that these reversals had deepened the company’s determination to regain the trend evident over the past 10 years.
In total, 37 people died as a result of injuries sustained at work at AngloGold Ashanti during 2006, 32 of these deaths at the South African operations. In 2005, 25 employees lost their lives in work-related accidents, 17 of whom were in South Africa. Comparing the fatal injury frequency rate (FIFR) year-on-year shows a significant increase in the frequency of fatal accidents in the South Africa operations, from 0.17 in 2005 to 0.35 in 2006.
Half of the fatal accidents (16) in the region were at the TauTona mine near Carletonville (See case study: Mining plan at TauTona changed in the interests of safety), 12 of which were attributable to seismic falls of ground, two to gravity-related falls of ground and the remaining two to other causes. (Falls of ground may be related to either seismicity or gravity: seismic-related falls of rock occur when energy is released into the environment, causing ground movement and possible rock falls; gravity-based falls of rock occur when loose ground is not sufficiently stabilised.)
TauTona’s response to the fatalities has been multi-faceted, aligned to the various legs of the fall of ground management strategy (See case study: Fall of Ground Management). The mine is in the process of changing its mine plan and mining method from longwall to sequential grid mining in most mining areas, which will initially have a negative impact on production. In addition, this mine has reviewed its shaft-pillar mining plan that had been modelled by South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in 2002 and was the subject of a workshop with the CSIR in 2006. The accident on 23 October 2006, which cost five lives, occurred in mining of the shaft pillar.
The TauTona mine plan has also been subject to scrutiny at industry level:
One particular area of concern that has been raised, both in the external review, elsewhere and in the industry as a whole, is the matter of fatigue. While programmes have been put in place to manage workplace conditions (such as ventilation and cooling), there are clearly a range of issues relating to fatigue that need to be addressed. A comprehensive group level fatigue management guideline has been developed (See case study: Managing fatigue at Sunrise Dam in the Report to Society 2005: page SH22 and Fatigue management programme progressing at Navachab mine). A fatigue management strategy is being developed for the South African operations and a roll out will commence in 2007.
AngloGold Ashanti remains committed to eliminating accidents at work and is determined to achieve significant improvements in the year ahead. In the words of Bobby Godsell, “Every death is unacceptable. While we have achieved significant improvements in recent years and expended a great deal of effort, the recent trend means that we simply have to intensify our efforts.”
*Bobby Godsell was speaking at the International Council on Mining & Metals (ICMM) conference in Johannesburg.