A three-man fatality recorded last Saturday at the BCL mine tells a story that something is definitely not right at the country’s oldest copper/nickel mine.
Just five months ago, the Selebi-Phikwe mine was grappling with deaths due to underground accidents.
In October 2014, three miners died in an accident, two in February 2015, and one buried last week.
Now, with the latest three deaths, it means in the year 2015 alone, BCL mine has lost six employees.
In the space of nine months, the mine has lost a total of nine employees, a record equivalent of one employee every month. This is record-breaking.
A few months ago we challenged the BCL management to revamp their safety, health, environment and quality priorities, more so that there are reports that these fatalities are in fact avoidable.
Many are convinced that fatal accidents at BCL are a result of lack of effective supervision in strategic areas of the mining. If reports surfacing from the BCL mine are true, that in the weekend accident, the deceased employees were caught in a somewhat prohibited area at the time of the collapse of the wall, then something is very wrong.
The mining industry is a very sensitive one; it demands prudence and due attention to the finer details of any operation.
It is our understanding that due to lack of intense supervision and security gatekeeping, some miners have made it their hobby to break safety rules. Previous fatalities should have provided fertile ground for stakeholders to seriously introspect and scrutinise the safety standards to ensure that fatalities are a thing of the past.
It’s worrying that fatalities occur at a time when the BCL mine is implementing the Polaris II strategy, which is meant to diversify the mine products and make it a profitable enterprise. We are suspicious that the management’s focus has now shifted to implementing the Polaris II strategy at the expense of safety, which should be of paramount importance.
It’s also disturbing that the latest fatality occurred during the mine’s recently commenced 62-day shutdown, which started on July 14.
There are pending issues between Botswana Mine Workers Union and BCL; Legal appointments of blasting licence holders; operating procedures; issuance of protective clothing; excessive hot temperatures underground; continued engagement of fixed term contracts of employment and no job training prior to the assumption of full responsibilities.
These could be the source of the mine’s troubles. To bring calm to the BCL mine, it’s only logical that top management now be called to be held accountable for these deaths now.
“Your employees learn by example. If they don’t see you practicing good safety habits, they won’t think safety is important.”