South African mine deaths rise after years of improving safety

Wed Aug 31, 2016 11:31am EDT
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* Mining deaths fell for 8 years running but now rising

* Netting credited with saving lives in deep South Africa mines

* Government stepping up production halts for safety

* Industry says such stoppages often misplaced, cost output

* GRAPHIC - Mining safety:

By Ed Stoddard and Sisipho Skweyiya

PHUTHADITJHABA, South Africa, Aug 31 (Reuters) - Pakiso Matsemela recalls the day he lost the use of his legs, joining the long casualty list of a South African mining industry whose accident rate is again climbing after years of improvement.

"I heard a bang and suddenly I was hit in the back by a rock. It felt like a rush of heat," the 63-year-old told Reuters, recounting the accident that shattered his spine at the Northam Platinum mine.

That was in May, 2009 and - while of no consolation to the paralysed Matsemela - South Africa's mines were at the time gradually getting to grips with their appalling safety record.   Continued...