Im­prov­ing and sav­ing lives

Our health­care and fo­cus on zero harm play a sig­nif­i­cant role in em­ployee com­mit­ment and re­ten­tion


The high points in Mel Mentz’s ca­reer at Lon­min, which has spanned more than 20 years, in­volves im­prov­ing peo­ple’s lives and sav­ing them at the low­est point in the com­pany’s his­tory.

Con­tracted as a doc­tor to set up a health­care ser­vice in Lon­min in 1994, Mentz, a med­i­cal doc­tor, joined the com­pany four years later and was in­stru­men­tal in chang­ing the way it pro­vided med­i­cal care for its em­ploy­ees, which would prove crit­i­cal many years later when, in Au­gust 2012, the tragic events un­folded at Marikana.

In the 1990s, min­ing com­pa­nies were start­ing to deal with the HIV epi­demic that was sweep­ing through their work­forces. One of Mentz’s core projects was find­ing a model that would ef­fec­tively ad­dress the prob­lem at Lon­min. To­day there are 4,778 staff on an­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment, with a treat­ment success rate top­ping 85%.

“That’s one of the things I’m very proud of; how many lives we’ve saved by man­ag­ing the HIV epi­demic,” he says.

From one small clinic to ser­vice its work­force, Lon­min now has a fully func­tional hospi­tal and three clin­ics to look af­ter more than 30,000 em­ploy­ees and their reg­is­tered de­pen­dants.

It was th­ese med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties that helped save the lives of 70 peo­ple with gun­shot wounds at Marikana in Au­gust 2012. Mentz was at the hospi­tal, one of six doc­tors help­ing with the stream of in­jured peo­ple.

An­other high­light has been the safety im­prove­ment at Lon­min’s mines, de­spite the un­cer­tainty brought by the takeover bid from Sibanye-still­wa­ter and the news that up to 12,600 jobs could be cut as Lon­min shut old shafts. Also, a fa­tal­ity on 30 Septem­ber 2018 fol­lowed a fa­tal­ity-free run of 15 months and 10-mil­lion shifts.

“A lot of things have been com­ing to­gether and we’ve put in a lot of ef­fort. When the min­ing en­gine and pro­duc­tion is run­ning well and safety is good, it cre­ates mo­men­tum like a fly­wheel,” Mentz says.

“Man­agers start to be­lieve it’s pos­si­ble to mine with­out in­jur­ing peo­ple. Hav­ing a good safety record keeps the reg­u­la­tor, the De­part­ment of Min­eral Re­sources, happy and we don’t have stop­pages im­posed. That keeps the mo­men­tum go­ing.”

In in­ves­ti­gat­ing safety in­ci­dents, Mentz says his med­i­cal back­ground equips him with an al­ter­na­tive way of un­der­stand­ing why they hap­pen, be­yond just the me­chan­ics of the in­ci­dent.

Mel Mentz: A good safety record re­sults in un­in­ter­rupted op­er­a­tions

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