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It’s not every day that one hears of an operating mine that has experienced no fatalities for three consecutive years. Exxaro, is one of the few mines that have reached such a milestone. The mine producer was hosting its annual sustainability summit at the organisation’s headquarters in Centurion.

Many of the attendees at the summit were Exxaro employees from various operations. The summit not only celebrated the three-year fatality free milestone, but it also highlighted other important issues relating to health, safety and environmental issues in the mining industry.

Musa Mabasa, mining manager at Exxaro’s Matla coal mine, started the first session of the event with an opening prayer and a moment of silence observed for mining colleagues who had passed on in the industry. This was followed by a safety briefing by Claudia Nair, the health and safety officer.

Exxaro CEO Mxolisi Mgojo was next when he officially opened the Summit and the Khetha Ukuphepha 3 Years Fatality Celebration. The Khetha Ukuphepha campaign was launched to emphasise the belief in zero harm as a possibility. During his opening speech, Mgojo mentioned the importance of having no fatalities for three years. “Being fatality-free means we’ve been able to send all our employees and business partners back home unharmed daily for the past three years,” he said. He also urged audience members to be responsible about their health. “Our people are our biggest asset – Your health is your wealth.”

After Mgojo, audiences watched a safety video which told the story of Pilard Tibane from Grootegeluk mine in Lephalale. Tibane was involved in an accident which saw him lose his leg. Fortunately, he survived, made a full recovery and managed to return to work – despite having an amputated leg. During the video, Tibane emphasised the importance of hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA). After the video, Dr. Nombasa Tsengwa, the executive head coal operations, led the audiences during the zero-harm pledge.

Before the first session ended, Mongezi Veti the executive head of sustainability, talked audiences through Exxaro’s sustainability journey. He talked about the 10 global sustainability megaforces that could potentially impact business over the next two decades. “Climate change is becoming the greatest threat of our lives,” Veti said. A direct impact of climate change was food security, which often affected vulnerable people in society. Veti stressed that it was important for people and organisations to transform themselves to become more sustainable. “This is the time for corrective action.”  During his presentation, Veti showed the audience visuals of what would happen if nobody took climate change seriously. Before concluding he mentioned that Exxaro was ready to deal with the coronavirus which is spreading across the world, saying that a guideline on how to manage the disease would be communicated to everyone in the organisation.  

After the tea break, Mervin Govender, projects group manager kicked off the second session of the day. He talked about measures Exxaro had put in place across to ensure that all operations were running according to safety and sustainability standards.

A different kind of summit

Although the summit was celebrating three years without a fatality, there was also emphasis on a healthy living lifestyle. To drive this point home, three panellists where invited to the stage to share their personal stories about alcohol and drug addiction. Diliza Khumalo, Randz and Jonathan Blackburn shared intimated details of their struggles with alcohol and drug addiction. While each of them had different experiences, they all had shared the same sentiments: their addiction had a negative impact on various aspects of their lives and that remaining sober was an ongoing journey.

The panel was followed by an interactive survey during which, audiences participated by answering questions through an app. After the survey, audience members were asked to make personal commitments to on how they planned to make a positive contribution to sustainability. This there was some entertainment which was enjoyed by the audience.

As the Summit drew to a close, union representatives from UASA, NUM and Solidarity were called to the stage to give words of encouragement. NUM deputy general secretary, William Mabapa congratulated Exxaro on having three years with no fatalities. He also acknowledged that achieving a three-year fatality free milestone was not easy – but encouraged the coal producer to continue with no fatalities for the next ten years and beyond.

Jo-Ann Potgieter from Solidarity pointed out that 2019 had been a good year for the mining industry with a 17% improvement on fatalities in the industry. She also emphasised that if the casues of the injuries were not addressed, then they would ultimately lead to fatalities. She concluded by saying that production should never be prioritised before the safety of mine employees – adding that safety, health and the welfare of families was non-negotiable.

Wim Diedericks, executive head for business development, thanked everyone for putting together a successful event. He urged everyone that had travelled from far to travel safely when they returned home. With that, the 2020 Sustainability Summit ended.

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