ICMM releases incident prevention strategies following Vale tragedy

The mining and metals industry has not succeeded in having a fatality-free year, International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) manager of health and safety Mark Holmes warns.

Holmes, who believes this trend will continue for the rest of the year, has worked with several world-leading mining and metals companies to try and stop fatalities from occurring for the past 10 years.

The ICMM and its member organisations have come up with eight fatality prevention statements, stemming from “very frank discussions” to better understand the reason the sector continues to have fatalities.

These include zero fatalities mindset, safety leadership at all levels, risk management capability, critical controls and fall of ground.

“Acceptable, safe and healthy working conditions are a fundamental human right and critical to the long-term viability of the mining and metals industry,” Holmes said.

“While there has been significant improvement in the health and safety performance of the industry over the past decades, there remain some persistent and continuing challenges we need to address – and address quickly, as Brumadinho reminds us.”

The catastrophic failure of a tailings storage facility at Vale’s Corrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho, Brazil, in January this year has led to 248 deaths and 22 missing people as of September 9.

This involved 11.7 million cubic metres of mining waste, which surged through the mine site towards the local town and countryside below.

“(Within around five minutes), three people will have died from a work-related accident somewhere in the world,” Holmes added.

“This is a sobering thought. No one should expect to be injured, maimed or killed at work. … All the companies I work with are determined to improve their health and safety performance. They understand it’s their responsibility to ensure that their employees get home safely.”