A mining and exploration retrospect for 2012
by Greg Klein
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Good riddance to all that
As the year comes to a close, 2012 hardly evokes sentimentality—not, at any rate, from most observers of the exploration and mining sector. Some typical remarks range from Michael and Chris Berry’s “Yes we are very happy 2012 is coming to an inglorious end” to Peter Grandich’s “I really don’t give a %@&* what markets do until after the New Year.” ResourceClips therefore eschews macro analysis to look instead at selected issues that helped characterize the last 12 months.
Crisis in South Africa
The horrific climax took place August 16, when 34 protesters died and 78 were injured under police fire. In total, over 50 lives have been lost since a wildcat walkout at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum operation spread to other South African mines and industries. At one point an estimated 75,000 people were on strike. Helping inflame the crisis were political rivalries, political corruption and a union turf war, while the gap between rich and poor continued to grow.
A mood of cautious optimism set in by late October, when many strikers had returned to work. But a November clash between the National Union of Mineworkers and the newer Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union killed two more. A December walkout led Harmony Gold to suspend 600 workers, resulting in a protest by 1,700 in which several people were hit by rubber bullets.
Wage increases notwithstanding, the turmoil settled nothing. Uncertainty remains about South Africa’s biggest industry, as well as its economy and society.
Saskatchewan mine fire ends safely
In Canada, the industry’s biggest scare happened on September 25 when a fire trapped 20 miners underground for 17 hours. Rescuers battled the blaze at PotashCorp’s TSX:POT Rocanville operation for 12 hours, then waited for the mine to cool and ventilate. The trapped workers bided their time in four well-equipped refuge stations before emerging safely.
The following month PotashCorp attributed the blaze to friction caused as a cable reel was dragged on a skid up to 16 kilometres. The incident wasn’t mentioned in a company announcement stating “the employees of Rocanville division achieved one million hours without a lost-time accident on December 11, 2012.”
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