A key concern in mining communities in developing countries is the lack of emergency preparedness procedures in the event of an accident. In 1998 heavy rains flooded mine shafts near the northern town of Arusha, northern Tanzania, where at least 100 miners went missing. Efforts to assist the miners were hampered by the lack of an effective emergency preparedness plan.
This briefing will look at the concept of emergency preparedness on mining sites in Tanzania, and in particular it will focus on:
- mine rescue emergency plans
- emergency training
- fire fighting
- gas detectors
The Mining Act 2010 (the Act) governs the mining industry in Tanzania. The Act is supported by the Mining (Safety, Occupational Health and Environmental Protection) Regulations, 2010 (the Regulations) which set out specific rules on emergency preparedness.
All mining companies are mandated under sections 51 to 57 of the Regulations to:
- develop mine rescue emergency plans
- conduct training for mine rescue
- ensure proper equipment is provided and maintained for surface fire fighting, underground fire fighting and underground coal fire fighting
- ensure the availability of gas detectors at all times
- ensure that proper evacuation procedures are prepared
Mine rescue emergency plans
Section 51 of the Regulations mandates the mine manager in charge of the whole mine including the relevant processing plant (the Manager) to develop and file with the inspector of mines (the Inspector) a mine rescue emergency plan which is to be kept up to date and followed in the event of an emergency.
In developing the mine rescue emergency plan the Manager must ensure that the mine has:
- where the number of persons employed underground at any one time is more than ten but less than 50, at least one fully trained and equipped mine rescue team
- where the number of persons employed underground at any one time is 50 or more, at least two fully trained and equipped mine rescue teams
Furthermore, the Manager of an open pit mine employing more than 25 persons per shift must ensure that:
- there is at least one fully trained and equipped mine rescue team
- on every shift where more than ten people are working, there are four people trained in mine rescue procedures
The manager of a mine employing less than ten people underground at any one time must:
- develop a mine rescue emergency plan and have it approved by the Inspector
- maintain such rescue apparatus and equipment as prescribed by the Inspector and ensure that personnel are adequately in its use
Section 51(5) of the Regulations provide that the normal composition of a mine rescue team should be made up of at least six professionally qualified members, one of whom should be the team leader, one the assistant team leader and one the coordinator who should remain at the fresh air base at all times. Furthermore, subsection (6) goes on to state that a person will not be considered a professionally qualified member of a mine rescue team unless he has the following qualifications:
- he has a valid mine rescue certificate and a valid first aid certificate, or equivalent
- he is free from a beard, moustache, or sideburns that could interfere with any breathing apparatus
- he is considered competent to act as a mine rescue team member by the person appointed as a trainer
In addition to the above, the Manager must ensure that:
- he appoints a qualified person to act as a trainer for the mine rescue team members
- all mine rescue team members practice as a team for not less than eight hours during the three months that the mine operates
- all mine rescue team members are not underground at any one time except during rescue work or training
- no person shall be selected for mine rescue training in order to become a qualified team member unless he possesses a valid first aid certificate or equivalent and, in the case of an underground mine, not less than 6 months experience in underground work (Section 51(9) of the Regulations)
Section 52 of the Regulations provides for emergency training procedures. It states that every hoist man and cage attendant who may be required to use breathing apparatus must be responsible for ensuring that the apparatus is always readily available to them while they are underground.
Furthermore, the Manager must ensure that:
- all persons who are required to work in a mine are trained and retrained annually in survival rescue procedures, including the use of self-rescue apparatus authorised by the chief inspector (section 52(3) of the Regulations)
- emergency procedures, properly maintained equipment, and trained personnel are available to respond to fire, explosion, or dangerous incidents while the mine is in operation (section 52(4) of the Regulations)
Surface fire fighting
Section 53 of the Regulations mandates the Manager to ensure that fire fighting equipment is provided and maintained in or about every head frame, portal house, shaft house, processing plant and other buildings at a mine where fire may endanger life. The Manager is required to adhere to the Fire and Rescue Services Act in determining the level of fire fighting equipment and their maintenance requirements in every mine site.
Underground fire fighting
In ensuring that underground fire fighting procedures are complied with, the Manager is mandated to:
- provide and maintain suitable fire fighting equipment at all underground crusher stations, electrical installations, pump stations, tipples, conveyors, service garages, fuelling stations, and any place where a fire hazard may exist (section 54(1) of the Regulations)
- inspect and, if necessary, test and ensure that maintenance for all fire fighting equipment is carried out by a qualified person at least once quarterly, and the results should be lodged and be open for scrutiny by the Inspector (section 54(5) of the Regulations)
- carry out training in fire fighting under the direction of a qualified person
- ensure that all persons newly employed at a mine must be given instructions in the use of fire fighting equipment during the first three months of employment
- ensure that all persons continually employed underground must receive a refresher course in the use of fire fighting equipment at intervals not exceeding two years (section 54(6) of the Regulations)
Section 56(1) of the Regulations provides for the use of gas detectors on a mine site. It states that every device used for the detection of flammable or noxious gas at a surface or underground mine must be of a type approved by the chief inspector.
Furthermore, the Manager is required to appoint a qualified person to be responsible for maintaining the appliances used for the detection of flammable or noxious gages (section 56(2) of the Regulations). Such person must:
- check the appliance for damage and ensure that it is in proper working condition before use
- not use the appliance if found damaged or dysfunctional
- take all reasonable precautions to prevent the appliance from being damaged (section 56(3) of the Regulations)
Section 57(1) of the Regulations mandates the Manger to:
- prepare procedures for the safe evacuation of the mine or part of the mine in the event of a fire and for the control of the fire
- post copies of the procedure in conspicuous places at the surface and underground
- ensure that each employee receives instructions in the procedures prepared under (a) above and that the employee can recognise the emergency escape routes from the mine
Moreover, the Manager must ensure that he develops and maintains a system acceptable to the chief inspector for warning all employees, whether underground or in buildings on the surface, of an emergency requiring prompt evacuation of their work places
A test of the warning system that does not involve evacuation of key process personnel must be carried out at least once every 12 months on a production shift, and the Manager must make certain that key process personnel unable to evacuate are knowledgeable with the warning system and the evacuation procedure.a system acceptable to the chief inspector for warning all employees, whether underground or in buildings on the surface, of an emergency requiring prompt evacuation of their work places.
As can be seen above, the Manager is mandated with a wide range of responsibilities. In addition to controlling, managing and supervising the direction of persons employed or otherwise at the mine, the Manager must, at all times, identify the hazards to health or safety of the employees at the mine and ensure that reasonable and practicable measures are implemented to monitor the risks, in particular measures that relate to emergency preparedness.