Zimbabwe has taken one step closer to becoming a leader among African nations with its stance and action on mine safety and minimum standards for the provision of safe working conditions for the local underground mining industry.
Working alongside mining safety consultants Mike Lincoln and Jason Van Niekerk from MineARC Systems Africa, Mr Shepherd Dhliwayo, Chief Inspector of Mines for the Zimbabwean Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, has submitted the draft of the proposed amendment to mine safety regulation which focuses on the requirement for underground refuge for all workers.
Zimbabwe Mine Safety Guidelines
Based closely on the internationally recognized world standard Western Australian Department of Mines & Petroleum Refuge Chambers in Metalliferous Mines guideline, which MineARC Systems also worked on as a member of the initial focus group in 2001, the Zimbabwean guidelines will focus on the minimum requirement for the supply of underground refuge on mine sites.
“This is a huge leap forward for Zimbabwe as well as greater Africa,” says Mike Lincoln – General Manager, MineARC Systems Africa. “If passed through the Senate, mining companies will be required to work within guidelines that are in line with international best practice.”
What is the Zimbabwe Mine Safety Act?
The Zimbabwean Miners’ Act: Accident Prevention Act, Notice 68 of 1990, was last reviewed in 1998. This 1998 review only pertained to Smoking in Public Areas and Labor Relations. A visit from Jason Van Niekerk in late 2015 prompted the Zimbabwe Ministry of Mines to look at updating the policy. After liaising with Su Ho – Manager Safety Communications at the Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum, Mike Lincoln and Shepard Dhliwayo drafted the Zimbabwean Ministry for Mines Refuge Chambers in Underground Mines guideline (pictured opposite) that will now move forward to other government departments for feedback and comment.
Some of the key areas of the act that have been developed are overall Mine Safety, the Requirement for Provision of Self-Contained Self-Rescuers (SCSRs) to all Underground Staff, and an outline of the Minimum Requirement for the Provision of Safe Underground Refuge for Mine Workers and stipulating what that entails; ie. maximum distances for refuge chambers, what constitutes safe refuge, visibility, alerts and minimum requirements for breathable air. The Zimbabwean Ministry for Mines has also indicated that they would like to look into general health and hygiene requirements for the Provision of Safe and Healthy Working Conditions in Underground Mines.
Mine Safety in Neighbouring African Countries
When viewed in contrast to Zimbabwe’s close neighbor South Africa, and their Department of Mineral Resources’ (DMR) current stance on mine health and safety, it is obvious that Zimbabwe aims to build their economy by attracting international investment – creating a reputation for themselves as a progressive African nation who sees the value of its most important national resource, its people.