The right side of the law

Contributed by: Jaco Swartz, Legislative Compliance Specialists (LCS) managing director

Cyanide management, collision avoidance systems, proximity detection… These are just a few examples of what legislation demands within a mining operation to avoid fatalities, ensure health and safety, and maintain an all-round conducive environment. What exactly do the new regulations require to remain on the right side of the law?

What is the most important aspects to take into consideration when it comes to current changes in legislation? The emphasis of these new regulations and codes of practice take operational costs into strong consideration, as well as factors of health and safety.

One of the most discussed, and in some instances maligned, regulations recently published is without a doubt the trackless mobile machinery (TMM) regulations. The TMM regulations came into effect on 27 May 2015. The big talking point in the regulations is the fitment of devices to detect and warn TMM operators and pedestrians of the presence of the other. On top of this, the regulations also refer to the fitment of devices to retard, and ultimately bring to a stop, TMMs where the operator does not take action once detection and warning has taken place. The great concern when it comes to the fitment of these devices is obviously cost, especially as the regulations would apply to all mining operations using TMMs, whether the fleet numbers are in the hundreds or consists of one front-end loader and a dump truck.

The regulations distinguish between different applications and types of mines. It is important that the devices only becomes applicable where a significant risk as a result of the interaction between TMMs and other TMMs and pedestrians exists.

As it stands, where a significant risk exists in terms of pedestrians and TMMs coming into contact:

  1. All electrical and battery powered TMMs must be fitted with detection devices as well as devices that will retard and stop the machine where no action is taken after the operator had been warned.
  2. All underground diesel powered TMMs must be fitted with devices to detect pedestrians and warn the operator and the pedestrians of each other’s presence.

The regulations further distinguish between surface and underground mining. For surface mines, specifically listed as opencast and open pit mines, detection and warning devices are to be fitted to detect diesel powered TMMs where there is a risk of collision between these diesel-powered TMMs.

The regulations further contain an obligation to bring to a stop any TMM, where after a proximity warning was received no action was taken. It is however important to note that this obligation will only come into effect on a future date to be fixed by the Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane. A lot of frustration is experienced in the industry, as many hold that the obligation to detect, retard and stop applies to all mines and to both TMM-to-TMM and TMM–to-pedestrian interactions. This is often compounded by the instructions given to individual mines by the Department of Mineral Resources inspectors.

While the detection and warning systems are obliviously very important, it would be foolish to lose sight of the host of other obligations contained in the regulations. These include the duty to draft legally prescribed procedures and formal documented authorisations to be put in place (including the duty to ensure operators are authorised by both the engineer and the applicable operator’s supervisor).

Chapter 21 of the Minerals Act Regulations was formally repealed on 24 April 2015. The Regulations, dealing with electricity, is now replaced with Chapter 3 of the Mine Health and Safety Act Regulations. This should be welcomed, as the previous regulations were last updated in 1997. The new regulations have been greatly streamlined, with a current 39 regulations as opposed to the previous 63. In terms of compliance with the new regulations, some of the issues to be considered by the employer includes the updating of legal appointments and the verification of required competence for certain tasks.

The use and management of explosives in the mining environment has always been a potentially confusing matter, as two sets of legislation and two separate sets of regulations potentially apply. Both the Explosives Act, under the South African Police Service’s Chief Inspector of Explosives, and the Mine Health and Safety Act have an impact on explosives used in mining. Chapter 4 of the Mine Health and Safety Act dealing with explosives, which initially came into power in 2006, has been replaced in total by a new Chapter 4.

The new regulations have been greatly expanded in scope. Where the previous regulation specified one specifically required written procedure, the new regulation requires 12. Another element to consider is the provision that consultation with the supplier of explosives must be illustrated in drawing up the procedures. The regulations will also require a redraft of the blasting appointments.

Another extremely important consideration, which will impact many operations, is the requirement for stemming and tamping in both surface and underground mining operations.

The regulations took effect on 10 October 2015.

Read more about this feature in MMPR Jan/Feb 2016, page 10.

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