The International Council on Mining and Metals’ (ICMM) latest safety data report from its member companies showed that there were 287 occupational fatalities in 2019, a marked increase from the 50 recorded in 2018 and 51 recorded in 2017.
The occupational fatality rate (calculated per one million hours worked) shows an increase from 0.022 in 2018 to 0.118 in 2019, while the overall injury rate decreased from 3.41 in 2018 to 3.20 in 2019, according to the ICMM. Sixteen company members recorded no fatalities in 2019, an increase from 11 members in 2018, it said.
ICMM said its members − which includes 27 of the world’s leading mining and metals companies − share an “unwavering commitment” to improving health and safety performance, towards a goal of zero harm.
To support this commitment, ICMM compiles, analyses, and publishes the safety data provided annually by company members. The full report, Safety Data: Benchmarking progress of ICMM company members in 2019, is available here.
Of the 287 occupational fatalities recorded, 250 occurred as a result of the catastrophic collapse of a tailings dam at Vale’s Corrego do Feijão mine in Brumadinho on January 25, 2019.
After structural failure, the second highest cause of fatalities was mobile equipment and transportation, which accounted for eight fatalities in 2019, seven fewer than the 15 fatalities recorded in 2018.
Tom Butler, CEO of ICMM, said: “One fatality is one too many. In 2019, 287 people lost their lives while at work, which is as a stark reminder that while the mining and metals industry has come a long way in improving how it operates, there is still much more to do to safeguard lives, improve performance and demonstrate transparency.
“Trust in our industry’s ability to operate safely was rightly questioned following the tragic Brumadinho dam collapse early last year, which claimed the lives of 270 people – 250 workers and 20 community members.
“Our members are committed to taking action, and the imminent publication of the Global Tailings Standard, which has been developed through an independent review co-convened by the United National Environment Programme, Principles for Responsible Investment and ICMM, will be a vital step towards improving the safety and security of tailings facilities, and rebuilding public trust in the sector.
“Monitoring and reporting on occupational health and safety indictors is an important aspect of driving performance improvement. In 2019, the second highest cause of fatalities was from mobile mining equipment and transportation. ICMM’s members are committed to accelerating investment in vehicle safety through our Innovation for Cleaner, Safer Vehicles program – a collaboration between ICMM members and original equipment manufacturers.”
The report also examined incidents by country. Company member operations in Brazil had the highest fatality rate of 0.83, recording 252 fatalities from some 303.6 million hours worked. Operations in South Africa recorded 10 fatalities and Zambia six, where 392.9 and 46.8 million hours were worked, respectively.
ICMM began collating and publishing company members’ safety data in 2012 with the aim of encouraging information and knowledge-sharing among members, and catalysing learning across the industry, it said. This platform of information sharing and learning has continued to support members through the challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic where the health and safety of workers and local communities is paramount.