AG red flags mines exposing workers to occupational accidents, diseases

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

AUDITOR GENERAL Mildred Chiri (AG) says some mines in six named provinces in the country were using mining methods that exposed workers to fatal accidents and diseases.

Chiri said in her Management of Occupational Health and Safety in Mining Operations for Mines Ministry audit report that “90% of mines visited in the 6 provinces had not subjected its workers to examination of pneumoconiosis and had inadequate personal protective clothing”.

“This could have been addressed if monitoring of mines was being done regularly to enforce compliance with Occupational Health and Safety OHS.”

According to the mining registrations cards as at November 2017, the mines for all provinces were 57 998, though interviews with mines Ministry officials revealed that government had no databases of all mines in the country.

“Inspections carried out during the audit in 51 mines in the 6 province, revealed that improper handling and storage of explosives was more prevalent with small and medium scale miners as compared to large scale miners,” Chiri said in a report released this past week.

“From inspection carried out at 28 small-scale mines in 6 provinces, I noted that all of them were not properly handling explosives, small scale-miners had no licences to store explosives among handling issues.

“The prevalence of unlicensed explosives in small-scale miners was attributed to inadequate routine inspections to enforce explosive regulations, lack of education campaigns on dangers of keeping explosives in unsafe places and inadequate vehicles for inspectorate department make visits.

“My audit also revealed that at 37 of the 51 mines visited, workers were not provided with adequate Personal Protective Equipment.”

Chiri went on to say that ministry inspectors were not able to conduct tests on clinical aspects like gas content, lighting and ventilation in mining environment.

“This has a risk that mining operators at times could manipulate the test for fear of losing mining licences,” she said.

“Also noted was that medium and small-scale mines did not have the equipment to test, leaving mine employees prone to hazardous working environment.”

Chiri said the Mines Ministry was not adequately monitoring OHS issues in mining operations thereby contributing to an increase in accidents and incidences of OHS and safety issues in mining operations.

“Apart from increase in accidents, government was losing revenue as a result of inadequate monitoring fees, licensing of explosives and penalties for non-compliance with OHS regulations,” the AG reported.

“Non-availability of vehicles for inspectorate department has been identified as one of the reasons why accidents have remained high especially in small to medium mines.

“Without vehicles, inspectors are unable to regularly visit mines to check adherence on a number of issues including OHS and also the method used to allocate vehicles was not in tandem with workload and fulfilling objectives of the department.”