The mining industry is continually making engineering and process improvements to enhance safety for mine workers. At Northam, we have successfully adopted a variety of leading practices based on the risk profile and operational characteristics of our mines.

Underground risk

Historically, falls of ground (FOG) have accounted for a significant proportion of injuries and fatalities in the mining industry and they remain one of the highest safety risks in underground mining. Due to the diversity of our mining operations – which include mechanised, hybrid and surface mining at depths ranging from near surface to 2 300 metres – we adopt a variety of FOG prevention systems and technologies at all times.

Our ongoing focus on FOG risks has delivered positive results on preventing FOG incidents. To date, we have achieved 10 million fall of ground fatality free shifts. Neither Booysendal nor Eland have ever had a fatal FOG incident since operations began. Booysendal’s performance in particular is exceptional: operating for 12 years and 7.5 million shifts without a FOG fatality. Eland’s operations started in 2017 and it has recorded 700 000 FOG fatality-free shifts. Currently, Zondereinde has operated 1.7 million shifts without a FOG fatality.

Industry-wide practices

Since 2003, the Mining Industry Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) has promoted leading practices across the South African mining industry to reduce health and safety risks and accelerate safety performance.

MOSH is led by the Mineral Council’s CEO Zero Harm Leadership Forum. The MOSH Leading Practice Adoption System remains one of the primary vehicles to achieve the safety goals, improvements and milestones that the mining industry has set for itself, especially relating to fall of ground (FOG).

Leading practices in South Africa are developed through collective research studies and numerous company-led safety programmes to reduce FOG incidents. The results of these studies and programmes are shared through MOSH to become industry-leading practices.

Northam has adopted these initiatives, depending on our mines’ characteristics, risk profiles and needs, as shown in the table. We have also adopted additional practices to our arsenal of measures to prevent incidents, especially related to FOG.

Additional leading practices

In addition to MOSH leading practices, we apply a number of additional industry leading practices including:

  • Backfilling at Zondereinde
  • Hydropower mining equipment at Zondereinde and hydropower drill jigs at Eland (see case study)
  • Aerial permanent blast on mesh installed on the stope face and shotcrete on the face for reef development ends before the blast at Eland Mine
  • Instrumentation/monitoring – we use ground penetrating radar/borehole radar/borehole camera systems at Booysendal and Eland
  • Seismic monitoring network and seismic hazard communication and awareness system at Zondereinde
  • Four-tiered tailings management approach
MOSH-led practices to mitigate fall of ground hazards
  Zondereinde Booysendal Eland
Up and down dip ledging practices     Check [icon]
Entry examination and making-safe procedure to be followed by each team Check [icon] Check [icon] Check [icon]
Triggered Action Response Plan (TARP), derived from a mine’s Major Hazard Management Plan. Consists of a set of documented and known workplace hazards that need to be continuously checked for Check [icon] Check [icon] Check [icon]
In-stope bolts for conventional mines Check [icon]   Check [icon]
Bolting on the bord faces with fully mechanized bolters   Check [icon]  
Temporary nets and jacks for secondary support installation Check [icon] Check [icon] Check [icon]
Illumination practices. Northam was instrumental in the development of illumination practices     Check [icon]
Other MOSH initiatives      
Proximity Detection System (PDS): The PDS is a detection device fitted to mobile machines that detects the proximity of persons, machines and objects and warns the operator and persons and/or slows down or stops the machine accordingly Check [icon] Check [icon] Check [icon]

* Eland was selected as a demonstration site for the industry

Modern safety [photo]