Monday, September 28, 2020

Jwaneng mine accident: report reveals how Debswana sacrifices lives to save money

A Botswana Mine Workers Union confidential report on the Jwaneng mine fatal accident reveals that the incident could have been avoided if the mine had followed safety procedures and the deceased, Mr. Raseiteo, may have been saved had the rescue team used the right tools and not given up on the search pre-maturely.

The edited report, which has been passed to the Sunday Standard reveals that the slope failure from bench 14, which continued to lapse to bench 27, was always an accident waiting to happen because of the safety negligence at the mine.

It emerged in the report that the Jwaneng mine, in an apparent bid to cut costs during the recession had cancelled the job safety analysis. States the report: “There is an effective system called the job safety analysis used in other departments. This system has not been used in mining and it is not clear why. The cries of the miners for a system that allows them to understand fully the area in which they work before they start work has fallen on deaf ears.”

The report further reveals how Debswana is sacrificing miners’ lives to save money: “The miners have on numerous occasions expressed concern over lack of benches. These benches have proven to be a safety requirement; they have saved lives in the past. Benches avoid falls from long distances during accidents because if, for instance, one falls from one bench to the next immediate bench such a fall does not have the same impact as the fall to a bench that is far due to the absence of intervening benches. Even though benches have proven to be important, management has ignored persistent calls from workers to reconstruct them. A direct fall from benches that are far apart is fatal as can be seen from the current accident.

It has also emerged that the slope failure at Cut 6 occurred at a high risk area identified three years ago by management reports. Despite complaints from miners, “the only attempt made to stabilize the area appears to be the placing of supportive ropes in the area. This has proven to be insufficient by the current fatal slope failure. The miners had foreseen and forewarned the management about the possibility of a major accident after observing rocks falling from the high risk area on numerous occasions. It has always been clear that this is a weak slope.

The report further reveals: “We are told that there are radars which monitor slope stability in place around the pit. It is not clear why the machines failed to warn of the massive slope failure which occurred on the 29th June 2012.”

“Notwithstanding the above, several questions remain unanswered such as (a) why it was necessary for radar reports to be referred to external experts for interpretation after the accident (B) why the Geotechnical Department took 24 hours to give status of slope stability to allow recovery/rescue of the trapped vehicle to start (c) how often calibration of the radar devices is done and by whom (d) why access ramp (road) and junction were constructed under high risk.

Next week Sunday Standard will carry a blow by blow account of the accident and rescue operation.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.