(Recasts with comments on CEO liability)
By Ed Stoddard and Wendell Roelf
CAPE TOWN Feb 7 South Africa's mines
minister said on Tuesday that industry chief executives should
be held liable for avoidable fatalities, also raising the
possibility of court action.
Targeting chief executives would take her safety drive to
new levels as the government tries to stem the death toll in the
country's mines, the world's deepest and among the most
"Fatalities which could have been avoided, we feel that CEOs
must be held liable for those accidents, because they are
responsible for the operations. As they show interest in how
they grow the profits they must also show interest in safety,"
Susan Shabangu told Reuters in an interview.
Asked if this meant possible court action, she said: "These
are some of the issues that we must look at. For me the courts
are the last option. But legislation provides for us to go to
Earlier she told the annual African mining conference in
Cape Town that the platinum industry's contribution to
fatalities in the mining sector remained a "serious concern" and
defended safety stoppages which she said had contributed to a
drop in accident rates.
South Africa's platinum sector has been battered by
oversupply, squeezed margins and an uncertain economic outlook,
making producers increasingly vocal about regulatory pressures,
particularly the impact of inspections and stoppages as part of
the government's zero-harm target.
"The department has been greatly concerned about lack of
improvement in compliance and fatalities in the major platinum
mines," Shabangu said.
"The platinum sector alone contributes about 30 percent of
all fatalities which remains a serious concern."
The gold sector has also been subject to increased scrutiny
and Graham Briggs, chief executive of Harmony Gold,
South Africa's third largest gold producer, described the
government's campaign on Monday as punitive.
Harmony cut its full-year output target by 13 percent
because of the stoppages.
Shabangu said that there was a slight drop in mining
fatalities to 123 in 2011 from 127 in 2010 and that 13 miners
have been killed so far this year in South Africa.
She also said in her speech that the governing African
National Congress (ANC) had reinforced in a key policy document
that nationalisation, long feared by the country's mining
industry, was not a viable option.
"I must indicate that we welcome the fact that the report of
the ANC task team on nationalisation has reinforced the ANC's
earlier decision that nationalisation is not a viable policy for
South Africa," she said.
(Editing by Veronica Brown)