The Increasing Number of Mine Disasters Worldwide

By Iqpc Middle East, PRNE
Sunday, September 18, 2011

JOHANNESBURG, September 19, 2011 -

The recent and worrying spate of mine disasters worldwide - like at the Upper Big Branch Mine in the United States or the Pike River Mine in New Zealand, both killing 29 - have refocused attention on the issue of occupational safety in mining. The International Labour Organisation estimates that mining employs about 1% of the global labour force, yet is responsible for 8% of fatal accidents. While the overall yearly fatalities have been slowly declining, the spate of major disasters in countries with otherwise impeccable safety records has industry observers worried.

The primary means through which mines ensure a safe working environment underground is ventilation - basically, moving in fresh air and diluting, filtering and moving out contaminated air. When this process goes wrong in coal mines - like at Pike River in November last year - flammable and explosive gasses such as methane build up, which a single spark can then set off with fatal consequences. When ventilation goes wrong in other types of mining - for gold or platinum, for example - workers can be exposed to dangerous levels of dust, resulting in the often-fatal occupational lung disease silicosis. Dust causing occupational diseases that are deadly only in the long term is certainly not nearly as dramatic as a fatal explosion, but it is nevertheless just as consequential. Not only have tens of thousands of people died from this preventable disease in the last few decades, but South African mine companies now face having to pay up to R100bn compensation to affected  workers. The people responsible for ventilating mines - engineers, ventilation officers, occupational hygienists and others - thus clearly have enormous responsibilities and face tremendous challenges.

It is the goal of IQPCs Mine Ventilation Africa conference, taking place November 15-16 in Johannesburg, to re-iterate those responsibilities and address those challenges. The conference has been accredited with the South African Institution of Mechanical Engineering, and participants will receive Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points for participating.

The keynote address at the event will be delivered by Mr. David Msiza, Chief Inspector of Mines of South Africa. He will discuss the future direction of regulations, especially when it comes to the amount of potentially-carcinogenic diesel pollutants workers are exposed to.


For more information on Mine Ventilation Africa 2011, feel free to visit, email or call +27(0)11-275-0457.


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