Deaths spike in South Africa’s deep and dangerous mines, reversing trend – by Ed Stoddart (Reuters U.S. – November 7, 2017)

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 7 (Reuters) – The 2017 death toll in South Africa’s mines has already surpassed the 2016 figure, ending nine straight years of falling fatalities in the world’s deepest mines and raising red flags for the industry, government and labour groups.

The trend reversal is likely to reignite investor concern over mine safety and could prompt regulators to step up shaft inspections, which often result in costly production stoppages.

“Fatal accidents last week raised the number of fatalities in 2017 to 76, above the 73 reported in 2016. This is particularly disappointing given the consistent improvement the industry has seen over the past two decades,” South Africa’s Chamber of Mines said in a statement.

The chamber said there had been several fatalities in recent weeks because of seismic activity. Anglo American Platinum CEO Chris Griffith, who heads the chamber’s CEO Zero Harm Forum, said the industry, government and labour needs to “accelerate initiatives that could improve this unacceptable performance”.

Fidel Hadebe, spokesman for the department of mineral resources, said “the department will certainly be stepping up efforts around this issue”, including closing operations for non-compliance with safety regulations.

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