The total number of deaths as a result of mine accidents during the first five months of the year came to 48, presumably because of a 29% increase in deaths on platinum mines, reports trade union Solidarity. According to Department of Mineral Resources statistics, around 10 miners died every month between January and May this year on South African mines.

Advocate Paul Mardon, head of Solidarity’s Occupational Health and Safety Division, says 46 miners had died during the corresponding period in 2011. “While it is good news that the number of mine deaths on gold and coal mines dropped by 32% and 14% respectively during the first five months of the year, it is disturbing that the number of deaths on platinum mines has increased by 29% during this period,” said Mardon.

More than 75% of the fatal accidents reported in the first five months of 2012 occurred in North West Province, Gauteng and Limpopo. “In North West, 13 miners have already died this year, while 11 and 10 fatal accidents have been recorded in Gauteng and Limpopo respectively,” Mardon explained.

Ground falls have contributed to 29% of the past five months’ mining fatalities. “General accidents, which among others include falling objects and gas explosions, contributed to 11 (23%) deaths.”

Solidarity reports that the department also revealed the reasons for the section 54 orders in terms of which the mining inspectorate temporarily halts activities at a mine following a mining fatality or accident, that were issued in May. “According to this information, insufficient underground support mechanisms, machinery and general safety constitute the main reasons for such stoppages,” said Mardon. Solidarity emphasises that the interests of both employers and employees should be taken into account when a section 54 order is issued.