Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Publication Details

David Cliff, OHS in the Mining Industry in the 21st Century, in Naj Aziz and Bob Kininmonth (eds.), Proceedings of the 16th Coal Operators' Conference, Mining Engineering, University of Wollongong, 10-12 February 2016, 418-424.


As the 21st century progresses serious questions are being asked of the capacity of the minerals industry to maintain or improve its Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) performance. The pressures on mining and mineral processing will come from many directions. Cost pressures are only going to increase; societal acceptance of mining may well become harder to obtain and mining and mineral processing conditions will probably get worse as lower quality ore bodies have to be mined at deeper depths. This in turn places pressure on OHS; in the developed world there will be smaller work forces operating more autonomous machines. Fewer people, lower exposure and therefore less risk? Not necessarily, as the danger of low manning levels is that the knowledge and awareness of the risks also diminishes. As incidents become less frequent, the awareness of them and their potential for harm reduces, actually increasing the risk of harm. In the developing world, due to low labour costs, ongoing unemployment issues and in many cases less rigorous legislative requirements, there will undoubtedly be an increase in small scale and artisanal mining, as well as the development of large scale mines. Here the potential for harm is due to the total lack of awareness of OHS issues at all levels in the industry and the lack of regulatory capacity to promote and enforce a safe and healthy workplace.