Are the Rights and Safety of Mine Workers being Undermined?

Note: This article was adapted from this link and revised.

On October 9, 2003, the south face of a goldmine in West Papua, Indonesia, collapsed. Eight workers died and five others were injured. Government investigators turned up evidence that in the days leading up to the accident, seismic data had led mine operators to suspect that slippage was imminent, and that key machinery—but not workers—had been moved from below the unstable zone.

These were not the first deaths at this particular gold mine, the largest open-pit gold mine in the world. In May 2000,a landslide at the mine’s waste dump claimed four lives, prompting environmentalists and government officials to question the safety of recent production increases.

Rock falls, tunnel collapses, fires, heat exhaustion, and other dangers claim the lives of over 15,000 miners every year. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), deaths within the mining sector as a whole (both metals and coal) account for 5 percent of all worker deaths on the job, even though the sector employs just under 1 percent of all workers worldwide.

But these are just the reported deaths; a substantial share of mining deaths go unrecorded. The data on injuries are even less reliable but it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of serious injuries are sustained every year in the mines. In 1996, Pik Botha, then South Africa’s Minister for Mineral and Energy Affairs, estimated that in his country, each ton of gold mined costs one life and 12 serious injuries.

Almost all governments have enacted health and safety regulations that apply to the mining industry. But these laws are often poorly conceived and enforced. To help bridge the regulatory gap, the ILO developed the “Convention on Safety and Health in Mines” in 1995.

The Convention requires employers to “eliminate or minimize” safety and health risks in their mines. It requires governments to oversee and report publicly on the implementation of such measures, and to suspend mining when violations occur. Yet, managing and reporting on the execution of these measures is a resource-intensive endeavor. As a result, efforts to mitigate safety and health risks in mining may be compromised.

With such challenges plaguing the mining industry, it needs a surefire way to improve safety standards.

Clean Mining, a part of the Clean Earth Technologies group, has a revolutionary solution to gold mining that enhances the health and safety of mine workers. Eradicating the use of cyanide, a highly toxic chemical commonly used in gold processing, a non-toxic, non-flammable and water-soluble solution is employed to extract gold which eliminates any cyanide-related health risks.

Ethically responsible, Clean Mining’s solution is the safest and most sustainable gold processing reagent developed to date, with benefits for governments, mining companies, communities, and consumers. It paves the way for a cleaner and safer working environment for mine workers in the industry.