In 1993, May 13, a methane gas explosion occurred 130 metres below the surface at Sasol Mining’s Middelbult coal mine in Secunda, starting an underground fire that left 53 mineworkers dead and seven injured.
The Leon Commission of Inquiry into Safety and Health in the Mining Industry, appointed on 28 May 1993 and which led the way to the New Mine Health and Safety Act as well as the Mining Regulation Advisory Committee (MRAC), identified fires caused by coal dust as one of the key areas of concern in mine safety and health. The MRAC appointed a tripartite task team to advise on measures to be taken in mitigating the risk of coal mine ignitions. The task team found inadequacies in the regulatory requirements relating to the prevention of coal dust explosions. The task team was consequently further tasked with compiling guidelines for an appropriate code of practice.
The coal sector has since made tremendous strides in terms of occupational safety and health, and has shown relentless resolve in pursuing the attainment of Zero Harm for all the sector’s employees. In 2015, the sector reported five fatalities compared to nine in 2014. At the annual announcement of mine health and safety statistics in Pretoria in January 2016, the Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane noted the overall safety improvements in the industry, and reported that five coal mining companies were included in the 16 companies which had operated without any fatalities for a period of more than 12 months.
The Chamber and its members are committed to a policy of Zero Harm and to ensuring that every mine worker returns from work unharmed every day. Through the steps taken and lessons learnt from tragedies such as Middelbult, we strive never to experience a disaster of this magnitude again.