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