Integrated Annual Review 2012 Annual Financial Report 2012 Mineral Resources and Mineral Reserves Regional overview  

5.2.3 Delivering a safe mining environment

The ‘engineering out’ of safety risks at our deep underground mines in South Africa is a key management priority – as reflected by a rigorous system of safety environment reporting to the Safe Production Management Task Team, the Board’s Safety, Health and Sustainable Development Committee and the Board of Directors.

Reducing seismic risks

During 2012, we completed the fitting of removable safety nets during drilling shifts and the installation of roof bolting on all stope panels throughout the South Africa Region except where hanging wall rock conditions do not allow this, in which case alternative solutions are devised. This marks a major step forwards in our delivery of a safe working environment and in terms of addressing what has traditionally been one of our most problematic areas. Indeed, completion of this initiative appears to have made a real contribution to a sharp fall in Fall-Of- Ground (FOG) accidents during 2012. This includes a fall in FOG-related fatalities from 12 in 2011 to two in 2012, of which one was gravity and the other seismic-related.

It also suggests the ‘feed-through’ of benefits from ongoing and extensive seismic risk management initiatives, including:

  • Enhanced pre-conditioning of rock before it is worked on (destressing) at all three South African mines, including South Deep
  • Ongoing mine planning reviews to ensure the minimisation of a high risk concentration of mining
  • Centralised blasting during a narrow time window to minimise the exposure of crews to seismicity during shift times at Beatrix and KDC
  • The cessation of night-shift working in isolated areas that have a high night-time seismic risk profile
  • Delivery of regular seismic hazard assessments by our Seismic Task Team, allowing for the temporary withdrawal of crews as necessary
  • Mechanised flat-end development at KDC and Beatrix
  • The use of galvanised mesh and bolts at South Deep

Furthermore, we are implementing additional measures to enhance the performance with respect to FOG accidents, including:

  • Testing of a new generation of ‘yielding’ rock bolts at South Deep, which are better able to withstand seismic energy
  • A trial study at KDC to investigate the use of steel mesh to provide enhanced aerial support between support units (i.e. beyond the stope panel)

Reducing tramming risks

Tramming incidents were responsible for five of our 16 fatalities during 2012. In response to this, we continued to initiate a new Guard Communications System programme. Under the programme we have started a major overhaul of our 1,200 underground locomotives in the South Africa Region, including improved cab designs, enhanced braking systems, electronic data recording, hand-held controls with ‘pivot-based’ safety systems and enhanced communications. This includes a ‘fail-safe’ command system that in effect requires both the driver (at one end of the locomotive) and the guard (at the other end) to issue the same instructions to the locomotive before it will function – as well as an emergency stop function that can be instigated by either individual. This programme has been completed at South Deep and is due for completion at Beatrix and KDC in mid-2014 – and will be supported by additional, related measures – such as training for locomotive operators and the implementation of safer alternatives to the manual coupling of rolling stock.

Underground locomotive drivers at
transport KDC, South Africa

Improved fire safety procedures

Following the major fire at the KDC Ya Rona Shaft in June 2012 (p86), Gold Fields has reviewed safety measures to minimise the risk of such an event re-occurring. These include:

  • Revision of our fire and explosion guidelines and enhanced training for operators
  • Implementation of dedicated, dual-oversight of our Fire Detection Systems
  • Additional oversight of our electronic Fire Detection System by our shaft-based control rooms

Although the exact circumstances and causes of the fire are still under investigation by the Department of Mineral Resources, we believe these measures will help avoid such an event re-occurring or mitigate the impacts of such an event.

Underground locomotive drivers at transport KDC, South Africa