Gold Fields is committed to reducing the exposure of its employees to occupational health risks, including those associated with air quality, silicosis, tuberculosis, diesel particulate matter and hearing loss. As such, each region has implemented occupational health and hygiene monitoring for diesel particulates, respirable and silica dust, other airborne pollutants and noise. Particular emphasis is placed on managing the underground working environments in Gold Fields' Australian and South African operations, due to the heightened health risks that underground mining poses to workers.
All of Gold Fields' regions run dedicated health programmes, tailored to both the national and local context of each mining operation. These programmes aim to identify and manage chronic medical conditions within the workforce, whilst also maximising its productive capacity and reducing absenteeism.
The adoption of the critical control management approach promoted by the ICMM, will also assist with the identification and mitigation of adverse health impacts on our employees.
Occupational diseases at South Deep (rate per 1,000 employees and contractors)
|Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL)1||0.78||0.80||0.68||1.52||0.62|
|Cardio-respiratory tuberculosis (CRTB)||3.26||5.26||6.16||9.15||6.5|
|Chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD)2||0.47||0.64||0.17||0.76||0.00|
|South Deep workforce||6,432||6,277||5,837||5,246||6,466|
Silicosis and Tuberculosis
The South African mining industry regulations for silica dust exposure require that 95% of all personal silica dust samples taken must be below 0.05mg/m³ by 2024. By the end of 2017, 24% of the employee silica dust samples exceeded this level, compared with 26% in 2016. South Deep has accelerated the implementation of a range of improved dust control measures to gradually reduce these levels, including:
- Real-time dust monitoring
- Fitting water mist sprays at dust sources
- Dust management controls on footwalls and internal tips
- Establishing of a dust-task team
- Introducing of centralised blasting in 2018
- Introducing of automated footwall treatment systems in 2018
During 2017 the Silicosis rate per 1,000 employees regressed to 1.71 from 1.12 in 2016, with the number of Silicosis cases submitted to the relevant health authorities rising to 11 from seven in 2016. However, no South Deep employee who joined the mine after 2008 and had previously not been exposed to silica dust, has contracted Silicosis. South Deep's CRTB rate improved to 3.26 per 1,000 employees in 2017 from 5.26 in 2016 and the number of CRTB cases submitted fell to 21 in 2017 from 35 in 2016.
In 2014 an industry working group was formed to address issues relating to compensation and medical care for occupational lung disease in the South African gold mining industry. Since then the working group has had extensive engagements with a wide range of stakeholders, including government, organised labour, other mining companies and legal representatives of claimants who have filed legal suits against the companies related to occupational lung disease.
The companies - Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, African Rainbow Minerals, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye - believe that fairness and sustainability are crucial elements of any solution and are working together with these stakeholders to design and implement a comprehensive solution that is both fair to past, present and future gold mining employees and also sustainable for the sector. The companies do not believe that they are liable in respect of the claims brought, and are defending these.
In May 2016, the South African South Gauteng High Court ordered the certification of a silicosis class and a tuberculosis class following the filing of the legal suits. The High Court ruling did not represent a ruling on the merits of the cases brought against the mining companies. The Supreme Court of Appeal granted the mining companies leave to appeal against all aspects of the May 2016 judgment. However, during 2017 good faith settlement negotiations between the working group and claimants' legal representatives reached an advanced stage, so much so that both parties jointly asked for the appeal proceedings to be postponed until further notice. This was granted.
Also as a result of the positive engagements, Gold Fields, in its interim 2017 results, provided an amount of US$32m (R390m) in the statement of financial position for its share of the estimated cost in relation to a possible settlement of the class action claims and related costs. The nominal value of this provision was US$40m (R509m).
At our operations in Ghana, Australia and Peru, contact with silica dust is limited due to the nature of open-pit mining and the low silica content of the ore bodies. As such there were no new cases of Silicosis and CRTB reported at these operations during 2017.
HIV/Aids management is integrated into Gold Fields' mainstream health services at our South African and Ghanaian mines and Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) takes place during regular employee health assessments. This has the added benefit of directly addressing the interaction of HIV/Aids with related health issues such as tuberculosis (TB).
In South Africa an estimated 15 to 19% of adults (aged 15 to 49) live with HIV/Aids. Gold Fields is committed to lowering the HIV/Aids levels at South Deep, where the prevalence rate (% of the workforce living with HIV/Aids) is 5.2% for those employees that were tested and counselled. There was a decline in the number of employees tested positive to 45 in 2017 from 112 in 2016. Since 2011, 5,597 HIV/Aids tests have been conducted of which 874 were positive. Between 2014 - 2017 about 76% of the workforce were counselled and tested for HIV. South Deep's integrated HIV/Aids and TB strategy directly addresses interactions between these diseases.
It has four key pillars:
- Promotion: This includes regular publicity campaigns and condom distribution at all workplaces
- Prevention: VCT is provided to all mine employees and contractors on a confidential basis. In 2017, the mine's VCT participation rate was around 29%
- Treatment: Free Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Treatment (HAART) is provided to HIV-infected employees through onsite, medical doctor-staffed clinics. In 2017, 36 employees joined the HAART programme (2016: 53). This takes the total number of active participants to 336 (2016: 332), with 574 cumulatively enrolled since the HAART programme began in 2004. Employees' dependants can also receive HAART via the Company's medical aid schemes. We do not provide treatment to employees from contracting firms, which provide their own support to their staff
- Support: This includes doctor-based primary healthcare, psychological counselling and social services for all employees and contractors. South Deep also supports a number of community-based HIV/Aids projects
In Ghana, where the national HIV/Aids rate is around 2%, employees and contractors have access to a confidential VCT programme which employees receive free of charge. During 2017, about 49% of the workforce underwent the VCT programme. Anyone testing positive is provided with free treatment in line with the government's national HIV/Aids treatment programme. By year-end 2017 Ghana had 34 employees on HAART (2016: 22).
Our workforce in Ghana faces a high risk of exposure to malaria and the Company has a comprehensive malaria control strategy in place, which incorporates education, prevention, prophylaxis and treatment. It also includes provision of mosquito repellent for workers, support for community health facilities and rapid diagnosis and treatment.
In 2017, 392 employees (2016: 505) tested positive for malaria after 2,460 (2016: 3,181) individuals were tested at both of our mines. None of the treated cases proved fatal. Employees and dependants who live in the mine villages have their company housing units sprayed twice a year as part of our Malaria Vector Control programme. Under this programme a total of 488 company housing units at both mines were sprayed in 2017.
The number of South Deep employees who contracted Malaria almost doubled to 17 in 2017 from nine in 2016, though these were migrant workers from areas which are considered high-risk areas.
During 2017, there were no new cases of NIHL at our Australian, Peruvian or Ghanaian operations and five at the South Deep mine. All our mines are making good progress in implementing a range of medical, educational and engineering interventions to improve performance in this regard. These include:
- Early diagnosis and management of treatable lifestyle diseases
- Preventative counselling on NIHL
- Equipping employees with the appropriate personal protection equipment (PPE) and training them in the use of PPE
- Application of noise management measures to the underground mining fleet
- Continuous monitoring of operator workstations and in-pit machines - drill rigs, excavators, dump trucks and graders
- Engineering controls, such as sound proof seals for equipment operator cabins
South Deep met the MHSC milestone for equipment noise not to exceed 110 (A-weighted) decibels (dB(A)), and only 4% of samples were above the 2024 milestone of 107 dB(A). It is important to note that these measurements do not incorporate the noise reduction effect provided by hearing protection devices, which are freely available and are compulsory to wear in demarcated areas. These devices (ear plugs and ear muffs) ensure that operators at all our operations experience noise levels of below 85 dB(A).
Diesel particulate matter
Gold Fields undertakes regular monitoring and analysis of the concentration of diesel particulate matters (DPM) at all of its operations. This issue is particularly material at Gold Fields' underground mines in Australia and South Africa, due to the potential concentration of particulates in specific working areas.
While there are no regulatory limits, the Australia region implemented a strategy in 2014 designed to reduce exposure to DPM with a focus on fitting filters to equipment, refining maintenance schedules, ensuring the correct levels of ventilation and providing appropriate procedural controls. These initiatives have led to a sharp decline in DPM levels underground, to a point where less than 1% of samples have exceeded the 70μg/m3 target (adjusted for a 12-hour shift) recommended by the Australian Institute for Occupational Hygienists.
In South Africa, new regulations have not yet been promulgated, but a limit of 160μg/m3 is considered good practice. This is what South Deep has been working towards through a range of programmes, such as the acquisition of vehicles and machines with more advanced engine technology as well as use of ultra-low sulphur content diesel. The 160μg/m3 DPM OEL was exceeded in 12% of samples during 2017 compared with 14% in 2016 and 19% in 2011.
At our open-pit mines in Ghana and Cerro Corona, the exposure levels and concentration of personal and area DPM samples are insignificant. Longer-term, the International Council on Mining & Metals is giving consideration to a strategy that will see major mining companies entering a dialogue with equipment manufacturers to gradually introduce electrical machinery and equipment underground.