Gold mining companies are riding high. The South African mine safety regulations reportedly will be tightened this year.

Gold Companies' Results Shine

The industry giants, which mine all over the world, are reporting they achieved record earnings and higher production in 2009. Some don't break out safety performance in their results, but one of them, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd, said its lost-time injury rate improved 7 percent in the year's fourth quarter.

Mining metals, particularly gold, is a good business at the moment. One of the top mining machinery makers expanded its global footprint last week, and the giants in gold production are reporting they achieved record earnings and higher production in 2009. Newmont Mining Corp. of Denver will report its 2009 results on Thursday. Other big players include Barrick Gold Corp. of Toronto, which posted record fourth-quarter 2009 net income of $609 million on Feb. 18, and Kinross Gold Corp. of Toronto, which on Feb. 18 reported record 4Q production of 613,858 ounces with record revenue of $699 million.

Several of these don't break out safety performance in their results, but one, AngloGold Ashanti Ltd of Johannesburg, South Africa, last week said its lost-time injury rate improved 7 percent in the year's fourth quarter to 6.54 lost-time injuries per million hours worked. The company said two of its workers died during the fourth quarter in separate incidents in Guinea and South Africa.

These companies mine all over the world. AngloGold Ashanti Ltd was the world's third-largest producer in 2008, with 4.98 million ounces of gold produced from its 21 operations, mostly deep underground mines in South Africa. But it also produced gold that year from operations in Ghana, Mali, Australia, Brazil, Tanzania, the United States, Guinea, Argentina, and Namibia.

The shift in the machinery suppliers came Feb. 19, when Terex Corporation (Westport, Conn.) announced it had completed the sale of its mining business to Bucyrus International Inc. (South Milwaukee, Wis.) for $1 billion in cash plus about 5.8 million shares of Bucyrus' common stock. What Bucyrus acquired is the manufacturing of hydraulic mining excavators, electric drive mining trucks, track and rotary blasthole drills, and a highwall miner, as well as the related parts and aftermarket service businesses and distribution locations.

Mining Weekly, an industry newsmagazine located in South Africa, reported earlier this month that South Africa's Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is expected to tighten mine safety regulations in 2010. DMR's statistics show there were 4,991 mining deaths from 1990-99 and 2,173 deaths in 2000-09, a 56 percent improvement, Mining Weekly reported.

The most recent DMR monthly fatality report available online, for October 2009, said 13 deaths occurred that month, six of them in gold mines. This report says there were 162 fatalities in South African mining from Nov. 1, 2008, to Oct. 31, 2009, for a fatality rate of 0.14 per million hours worked, which the report said "compares extremely well" with 193 fatalities and a 0.17 rate from the same period in 2007-08.

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