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4/11/10

Pan American Silver (PAA.to) (PAAS), the long-term pattern of fatal accidents at its mines, and Oscar Wilde

Let's kick off this post by paraphrasing the great playwright: "To lose one miner may be regarded as a misfortune, to lose twenty-four looks like carelessness."

Pan American Silver (PAAS) really likes to impress people with its growth, its profit margins and even its talk about health & safety, concern for its workforce and all such smokeblowing exercises. But beneath the shiny happy corporate façade, the record of PAAS when it comes to accidents isn't bad, it's downright awful. Here's a little list of names, dates and place to mull over:

Pan American Silver (PAA.to) (PAAS): 24 deaths in its Peru mines
Date of Accident Mine Unit Region Full Name of Victim Accident by type
09/11/2000 Quiruvilca La Libertad FREDY HERNAN MENDOCILLA VILLANU Machinery Op.
09/11/2000 Quiruvilca La Libertad JUAN ESPINOSA CASAMAYOR Machinery Op.
18/12/2000 Quiruvilca La Libertad RONALD RAUL ASTO CAMPOS Explosion
27/03/2002 Quiruvilca La Libertad SEGUNDO BASILIO CASTILLO Rock fall
06/04/2002 Quiruvilca La Libertad SANTOS TEODORO REYES RODRIGUEZ Rock fall
21/10/2002 Quiruvilca La Libertad YSIDRO FRANCISCO GIL ARANDA Asphyxia
30/03/2003 Quiruvilca La Libertad WILMER AGUILAR ROSAS Asphyxia
07/05/2003 Quiruvilca La Libertad FREDY ROY VALENCIA ZAVALA Rock fall
13/02/2004 Quiruvilca La Libertad PEDRO MELANEO REYES RODRIGUEZ Electrocution
27/05/2005 Quiruvilca La Libertad JULIAN TANTAQUISPE MENDEZ winch malfunction
03/09/2005 Quiruvilca La Libertad JULIO CELSO SOLORZANO SANCHEZ toxic gases
27/10/2005 Quiruvilca La Libertad SANTOS RUPERTO LUJAN CAMPOS Rock fall
19/03/2006 Huaron Pasco ABEL ANGEL PALOMINO LOPEZ Rock fall
21/03/2006 Huaron Pasco EDMUNDO ANGEL SUCARI MATEO Rock fall
23/02/2007 Huaron Pasco RICARDO ZACARÍAS PINO BORJA Rock fall
25/05/2007 Quiruvilca La Libertad RUBÍ DANIEL INFANTES AGUILAR Asphyxia
16/08/2007 Huaron Pasco JESUS ANIBAL ALBERTO ALCANTARA Rock fall
20/12/2007 Quiruvilca La Libertad ROBERTO EMITERIO TOLEDO GARCIA Rock fall
08/02/2008 Huaron Pasco LUCAS ANTEDORO ALVAREZ LOYOLA Asphyxia
20/05/2008 Quiruvilca La Libertad EDWARD ELIVEL GIL VERA Rock fall
26/09/2008 Quiruvilca La Libertad MARTIN DANIEL VELASQUES BRUNO Asphyxia
13/11/2008 Huaron Pasco OSWALDO RAMIREZ GUTIERREZ Rock fall
03/06/2009 Huaron Pasco ELDELFONSO ISAIAS BALVIN SIERRA Rock fall
02/02/2010 Huaron Pasco PERCY YDDAR CHUCAS HUAMAN Suction and/or burial

All data from Peru's Ministry of Energy and Mining

Yes indeed, in the space of the last ten years at its Huaron and Quiruvilca mines in Peru, Pan American Silver has seen no fewer than 24 of its workforce die in mining accidents. Now for sure mining isn't a job like needlepoint or macrame; it's a dangerous world and fatalities will happen. But when there's a never-ending line of deaths from mining units operated by the same company, you have to wonder when the phrase "accidental death" needs to be replaced by the phrase "criminally negligent". It's certainly interesting to note the different reactions to the terrible coal mining accident in the USA recently, where 29 poor souls have lost their lives (and may they rest in peace). Here we have a closely equivalent 24 people that haven't mustered up a single headline between them, but surely the slow, steady but non-stop drip drip drip of deaths at a single mine speaks far more loudly of negligent practices by the company in question than a single, tragic event?

To make matters worse, PAAS President Geoff Burns is all too aware of the poor safety record of his mining units and doesn't seem to care much. As part of a recent mail exchange with a reader of IKN, who tackled him on the deaths at Huaron and Quiruvilca (I got all the exchange here, fwiw) Burns wrote that:
"...... the health and safety of each and every employee and contractor that works at one of our mines is and always will be of the highest priority. I am informed within hours in the unfortunate event of a fatal accident, should it occur at one of our operating or development properties. Our staff if mobilized immediately and I am then provided with full details on each incident once a thorough investigation has been conducted. This information is then shared with the senior safety and operating professionals throughout our organization and we then ensure that the proper actions are taken to try and prevent recurrences and further mitigate risks to our personnel."
Well, let me tell you something, Burns; your health and safety policy way sucks and doesn't work, however much you try and talk it up. And how can H&S be of the highest priority to the company when you never report fatal accidents to your shareholders, your "prevention of recurrences" policy clearly doesn't work (and there are 24 reasons right above these words to prove that) and you never have the common decency to mention the pisspoor company H&S record in the company annual reports, unlike so many other large mining companies who are rightfully proud of their records and aren't trying to cover up the blood of its workforce?

By the way, Burns, the reason why I have all the e-mail exchange you had with the IKN reader (and now EX-shareholder of PAAS who was a shareholder at the time the exchange started) is that he got fed up waiting for you to answer him. So your IR policy sucks bigtime, too.

With something approaching irony, PAAS founder and chairman Ross Beaty this year won the Viola R. MacMillan award at PDAC, a gong handed out for mining development. Apparently, the award does not take into account everything that should be developed by a modern mining operation, such as a board of directors who pay more than simple lip service about the welfare of its workforce.