3. The typical role and structure of a department of inspectorate
Government responsibility for ensuring compliance may be delegated to one or more government agencies including the Mines Inspectorate. The role of a typical mining inspectorate function and the way in which it relates to key sector stakeholders is shown in the diagram below.
Role of a typical mining inspectorate function
Common duties of a department of inspectorate
This overview will refer to the “Department of Inspectorate”. The name and structure of the Inspectorate may vary but its functions will typically include:
The enforcement of safe and healthy operating practices: This is the primary function of the Department of Inspectorate. Miningis, by its nature, a high-risk activity. The Department of Inspectorate is accountable for ensuring that health and safety risks are properly managed at mines and that persons and property are protected.The Department of Inspectorate may be wholly or jointly responsible with other agencies for management of environmental impacts of mining.
Management of the use of explosives: The use of explosives in mines is sometimes included in Health and Safety Regulations but may be separate. In some countries, the Department of Inspectorate is also responsible for the licensing and control of the use of explosives in other civil applications, for example in the construction industry.
Assurance of efficient use of mineral resources: Governments have a responsibility to ensure the efficient, optimal exploitation of mineral resources. The technical expertise and resources for this function usually reside within the Department of Inspectorate.
Recording of production volumes and activities: Licenses and contracts may specify maximum and/or minimum volumes of production over a given time. Output may need to be verified for the purposes of calculating royalties and taxes.
Technical assistance to mines: One of the usual functions of the Ministry of Mines is to promote mining investment and activity. The Department of Inspectorate might be charged, as part of this responsibility, with providing varying degrees of technical assistance to mine operators.
Factors influencing the resourcing and structure of inspectorate departments
The manning levels and structures of inspectorate departments can vary considerably from one country to another. These parameters should be determined by the level of mining activity to be regulated, including for example the number of mines, the number of persons employed in mining activity, the geographical distribution of operations and their operating risk profile.
Operating risk will in turn vary according to the nature of operations. Factors influencing the risk profile of an operation include whether it is open pit or underground, the depth at which mining takes place, the types of rock being mined and the degree of mechanisation or lack of it. The skill level of mine workers is an important element to be considered in determining the level of risk and the resources required for a mine inspection.
Inspectorate departments may be centralised or regionalised with satellite offices in different centres. At large, complex or high-risk mining operations, it is not unusual to station an inspector or a team of inspectors permanently on site. This may also be necessary where close monitoring of levels of activity is required.
Awareness of the inspectorate function
In countries and industries where regulatory processes are new, governments are advised to proactively ensure that mine operators are conscious of the regulations and the authority of inspectors. Mine managers need to be fully aware of the powers of inspectors to give instructions, issue penalties or order activities at mines to be suspended for non-compliance with regulatory requirements, particularly those relating to health and safety.
The following pages give some illustrative job requirements and functions for a mines inspector.
Suggested education and skills requirements for a mines inspector
The table below suggests education and skills requirements for mines inspectors. These are typical requirements which will need to be adapted for local use.
Experience in practical mining operations essential, preferably both open pit and underground. Hard rock and/or coal as required. Familiarity with mine management systems, mining methods, equipment and technology.
Experience in use of explosives and possession of license or certificate of competency essential.
Risk assessment, incident investigation, health and safety management.
Fully familiar with relevant regulations.
Suggested job functions for a mines inspector
The job description below is offered as a typical guide, actual job descriptionswill vary according to the duties of the inspector as outlined in regulations, the structure of the Ministry of Mines and the nature of the operations that he/she monitors.
Conduct routine and ad-hoc technical and health and safety inspections of mines to enforce compliance with relevant legislation, regulations and contractual requirements.
Identify immediate health and safety hazards and issue instructions to mine operators; follow up and verify timely implementation of effective corrective action.
Give instructions to mine workers on safety; give directives to mine operators to rectify, within a reasonable time, any cases of non-compliance with regulations or of unsafe acts and conditions. Empowered to order the immediate cessation of unsafe activities pending rectification to the satisfaction of the Inspector.
Receive immediate reports of reportable mine incidents in terms of regulations, give instructions for non-disturbance of incident sites and for resumption of activities.
Visit mines and conducts investigations of incidents in coordination where appropriate with the other authorities. Prepare incident reports, identify non-compliance with relevant regulations, impose penalties or recommend prosecution of operators; follow up and verify timely implementation of effective remedial corrective action.
Visit mines and, based on formal risk assessments, grant approvals and exemptions as provided in regulations, within the limits of delegated authority. These duties might include licensing of explosives storage facilities (magazines) or manufacturing facilities, licensing of equipment, issue of licenses or certificates of competency to operators or for the use of explosives, i.e. “blasting certificates.”
Review routine and ad-hoc reports submitted by mine operators and health and safety officials or representatives at mines; make recommendations to the operators for solutions and improvements.
Review, approve and monitor compliance with mining plans and feasibility studies submitted by investors and mine operators. These might include mine closure and/or rehabilitation plans.
Maintain mine files; prepare and file mine inspection and compliance reports including data pertaining to mine safety, production and other activities as required by regulations, approved mining plans or contractual provisions. Maintain on file, mine plans including underground, surface, ventilation and escape maps as required by regulations and as applicable.
Provide technical advice to mine operators on how to improve and optimise operating efficiency.
The generic duties of an Inspector of Mines cover a broad range of competencies. A department of inspectorate may, in addition, include in its structure specialist services such as:
- Surveying and plan preparation
- Mine ventilation surveys and planning
- Mechanical and electrical engineering
- Geotechnical services (also called rock mechanics): (underground rock stability assessment, design of support systems, open pit design and monitoring)
- Geology, mineral resource measurement and reporting
- Drilling and blasting experts
- Environmental experts, with particular reference to rehabilitation, mine closure planning and cost estimation.
These experts would support the inspectors with specialised, detailed knowledge of their fields, especially in the monitoring of large, complex or high-risk mines. Mechanical and electrical expertise is essential for monitoring of facilities and equipment installed and used in mines, beyond the normal scope of training and competency of mining engineers. Specialist services may be outsourced, in which case clarity is required on whether the experts have the legal powers of inspectors.