JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - A safety crackdown on the South African mining industry reduced the number of fatalities in the country's mines to three in April, from an average of 11 or more a month, mines minister Susan Shabangu said.
"There has been a significant improvement on health and safety since the department intensified enforcement measures at the mines," Shabangu said in a speech to the National Council of Provinces dated May 3, which was obtained by Reuters on Monday.
"In fact, the month of April 2012 has recorded the lowest fatalities ever, of three deaths, when compared with other historical figures, which were generally more than 11 deaths per month," she said.
This year to date, 39 people have lost their lives in South African mines compared with 42 in the same period in 2011, while the number of mine injuries fell 35 percent to 668, Shabangu said in the speech.
South Africa's mines are the world's deepest and among the most dangerous, and Shabangu's ministry has been leading a drive that has included a surge in inspections, and stoppages for safety violations.
South Africa's mining output fell sharply in volume terms in February, the latest month for which data is available, highlighting the impact of the safety push.
Production of platinum group metals (PGMs) fell 47.6 percent while gold output fell 11.5 percent in volume terms in February. Total mineral production was down 14.5 percent compared with the same month last year.