South Africa's chief mine inspector on Friday defended safety-related mine closures that have cut into production at the world's top platinum producer.
Lonmin, the world's number 3 producer, lost 177,000 tonnes production to safety stoppages in its first quarter, more than eight times the level of a year earlier and threatening full-year targets. Anglo American's Anglo Platinum last week voiced its concern about closures for inspections.
The industry is really not disputing the Section 54s. They are really disputing the number of days lost, David Msiza, the chief inspector of mines, told reporters after briefing parliament.
Section 54 of the Mine, Health and Safety Act allows inspectors to shut mines if serious transgressions are found that could lead to fatality or injury.
He said a task team will look at the how the ministry implements its inspection madate, trying to minimise the amount of production lost due to inspections.
Mine safety is a huge issue in South Africa, which has some of the deepest and most dangerous mines worldwide.
Msiza said close to 90 percent of the country's fatalities occurred in bigger mines, which should have the necessary capacity to prevent them.
According to government data, 855 miners were killed in South Africa in 1986 but that number has fallen, hitting 220 in 2007 and 169 in 2009.
The ministry plans to soon release updated statistics on fatalities, which have been on the decline in recent years.