Exxaro Resources, one of South Africa’s largest black-empowered resource companies, has achieved four years without any fatalities across its mining operations. This marks a remarkable milestone it set out to achieve as part of the company’s Khetha Ukuphepa campaign that was launched at the end of 2019.
Khetha Ukuphepa, translated as ‘Choose Safety’, highlights the efforts that have been made to achieve Exxaro’s goal of zero harm in the company and across all its assets. When the campaign was launched, Dr Joseph Matjila, Group Manager for Safety and Health at Exxaro Resources, rallied employees and business units around the goal of mine safety with these powerful words: “We believe that zero harm is possible. We cannot sell coal associated with injuries and loss of life. That’s not our business.”
As the cornerstone of its Zero Harm pledge, Exxaro’s campaign has ensured that every employee adheres to strict safety standards and can return home unharmed. One of the strategic initiatives of the campaign has been to communicate and reinforce the importance of individual safety by educating employees about potential hazards such as machinery, dust inhalation, silicosis, TB, or even seemingly harmless obstacles like noise or fatigue.
While South Africa’s mines are some of the deepest in the world, the industry has made great strides to improve safety, and Exxaro has a long-standing track record of prioritising mining safety. In 2012, the Minerals Council South Africa (MCSA) established the CEO Zero Harm Forum to drive health and safety commitments and initiatives through leadership. The forum provides a useful platform for leaders in the industry to discuss common challenges and solutions, while also bringing it closer to other stakeholders and, most importantly, mining communities. Forum discussions can ultimately lead to adjustments to industry models to resolve specific safety needs or concerns.
Exxaro CEO, Mxolisi Mgojo, reinforces how important the forum and the commitment to safety are, stating that, “What we in the mining industry also acknowledge are the thousands of lives lost in the past 100 years. These are souls dearly missed to this day. And we seek not to have such deadly repetitions.”
The last unfortunate fatality at Exxaro happened on the 1st of March in 2017 at Matla Coal, Mine 2 Operation. Since then, the company has doubled its efforts to improve safety measures and awareness to avoid more tragic losses. This four-year fatality free milestone shows that the hard work has certainly paid off.
Dr Joseph Matjila highlights the importance of achieving and celebrating this goal, “This marks a great milestone for our company and for the future of the South African mining industry. The leadership and strategic initiatives to improve safety regulations have ensured that all of our employees can work in an environment they can trust, and that they can return home to their loved ones unharmed.”