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Hlobane, 12 September 1983

Today, the Minerals Council South Africa and our country’s coal industry remember the 64 miners who lost their lives in a methane explosion at the Hlobane colliery near the town of Vryheid in KwaZulu-Natal. The explosion that tore through the mine was South Africa’s second most deadly colliery disaster.

Official investigations indicated that the explosion had been caused by a spark from a mining tool that ignited a large pocket of methane gas.

The likelihood of a repeat of the colliery’s methane explosion is remote today. New gas-detection equipment has been developed and employed widely throughout South Africa’s mines; mining tools are spark- and fire-proof; miners cannot return to workplaces that have not been made safe; modern ventilation systems ensure that noxious gases and dust are removed from mine workings; and greater awareness of safety is instilled in the minds of all miners as they go to their workplaces.

In July 2021, the industry demonstrated its commitment to the shared imperative of zero harm by launching the fourth annual National Day of Health and Safety in Mining virtually under the Khumbul’ekhaya health and safety strategy banner. Prevention has been found to be the most important mitigation control, coupled with good housekeeping and stringent maintenance of a mine’s code of practice. The track record of South African mines proves that the investment and implementation of preventive measures have paid off.

Over the past two decades, the coal mining industry has demonstrated a continued improvement in its safety performance. South African coal mines are among the safest mines in the world today. Coal sector injuries decreased from 224 in 2019 to 132 in 2020 (41% reduction).

The aim of the Minerals Council and its members is that South Africa’s mines shall be free of fatalities and accidents.

In memory of the 64 men who perished at Hlobane in 1983, let us rededicate ourselves to the highest standards of safety on our mines.