Setting the compliance benchmark

Named the Top Performer in ASPASA’s ISHE Audit for two years running in 2021 and 2022, as well as establishing itself among the top three operations in the Environmental Audit, Afrimat’s Free State-based Qwa Qwa Quarry not only continues to set the benchmark in compliance, but also in neatness and orderliness. By Munesu Shoko.
Owned and operated by Afrimat, Qwa Qwa Quarry is one of the shining stars as far as compliance is concerned.

As the regulator and communities continue to demand that the extractive industry places more value on compliance, it is encouraging to see that the South African quarrying community has for decades been at the forefront of heath and safety management, with a renewed focus on environmental management taking centre stage.

Owned and operated by Afrimat, Qwa Qwa Quarry is one of the shining stars as far as compliance is concerned. In an exclusive interview with Quarrying Africa, quarry manager Anton Marnewick, who also runs two other Afrimat operations, concurs that compliance by its nature costs a lot of money, but it has to be ‘front and centre’ of every operation.

“Compliance with the various laws and regulatory requirements is critical to ongoing activities in any quarrying and mining environment. Given the inherent risks associated with work within our industry, we have to place issues such health and safety at the core of our operations. Compliance is key to our quest to achieve zero harm, and that is why Qwa Qwa, and the Afrimat Group at large, do not leave anything to chance when it comes to compliance – be it health and safety, environment or quality,” says Marnewick.

Initiatives central to the operation’s health and safety success are regular monitoring and inspections; continuous upgrades, where necessary, to comply with the everchanging legislation, as well as effective maintenance.

Health and safety

When talking about health and safety, it would be fair to cast the spotlight on South Africa, where the legacy from earlier attitudes to worker safety still resonates in the drive to continually improve safe mining and quarrying conditions. Under the stewardship of a capable industry association, ASPASA, member operations such as Qwa Qwa Quarry are surely leading the way in health and safety compliance.

Some 22 years ago, the association started its Health and Safety (ISHE) Audit for the industry to ensure that its members adhere to the most stringent health and safety standards. The total ISHE Audit protocol covers more than 700 questions that must be answered and verified with objective evidence, where a possible total of ±3 900 points are awarded. To be awarded a Showplace Status, the quarry must achieve a minimum final score of 95%.

One operation that consistently sets the bar high in health and safety standards is Qwa Qwa Quarry. In 2021 and 2022, the operation was recognised as the Top Performer in the ISHE Audit, with scores of 97,63% and 97,25%, respectively. While the results of the 2023 audit were not yet available at the time of writing, Marius van Deventer, Health and Safety auditor at ASPASA, confirms that the quarry had yet another excellent audit.

Marnewick credits teamwork as one of the cornerstones of success at this operation. While the safety culture is cultivated from management level, the buy-in from the workforce has been one of the recipes for success over the years.

Accountability by every individual on site, he says, also makes health and safety compliance a breeze at Qwa Qwa Quarry. “We strive to make employees responsible for their own safety, as well as that of others and the areas where they work,” he says. Regular training programmes have also made sure that that employees are well informed of what is required of them.

Other initiatives central to the operation’s heath and safety success are regular monitoring and inspections; continuous upgrades, where necessary, to comply with the everchanging legislation, as well as effective maintenance.

“Zero harm for us is non-negotiable. We take the safety of our people, contractors and visitors seriously,” he says. “In addition, we have always placed a premium on neatness and orderliness. The old adage of ‘a neat workplace is a safe workplace’ applies to Qwa Qwa Quarry and continues to instil a sense of pride for all involved.”

ASPASA’s van Deventer commends the Qwa Qwa team for consistent improvement every year. “I have often asked the employees at Afrimat Qwa Qwa Quarry to explain what makes them different to other operating quarries when it comes to achieving such good scores in the ISHE Audits, as it is sometimes difficult for an outsider to understand the dynamics of this extraordinary team.  Everybody is in consensus that this can only be achieved by having committed leadership and all-around teamwork,” he says.

Van Deventer makes special mention of the special bond between Anton the mine manager, Snyman the plantsman and Donald the health and safety representative, as key to the continued success of the operation. Corrective actions, he adds, are followed up to ensure full compliance. Every employee is held accountable for their actions, but this management team is always willing to give credit where it is due.

Van Deventer has challenged the Qwa Qwa Quarry team for further improvements every year and has been amazed by the way they always come up with new initiatives that contribute to the overall health and safety of every employee. Leading practices, he says, are set every year for the rest of the industry to learn from and the team is always willing to share with others.

“The objective of the ISHE Audit is to add value to every operation and share information to ensure legal compliance to every employee with a healthy and safe work environment. It is always such a pleasure to see continuous improvement of health and safety standards,” says Van Deventer.

Marnewick, adds Van Deventer, is always the first to admit that these successes would not be achievable without the support of his seniors, together with the total commitment from the Qwa Qwa team.

Marnewick also pays tribute to the Afrimat health and safety team for the support, which he says has been instrumental to the success at Qwa Qwa. Afrimat is well known for caring for the wellbeing of all staff and recognises its workforce as a meaningful and important contributor towards its core.

It is the company’s policy to use its health and safety management system to do all that is reasonably practical to prevent occupational diseases, personnel injury, damage to property, and to protect all employees, visitors, contractors, public, and interested and affected parties from foreseeable work hazards, insofar as they come into contact with the operations or are exposed to the performance within the company.

“We follow a proactive and participative approach to health and safety management, both within the boundaries of our operations and the integration thereof with surrounding areas. This means that we will endeavour to proactively identify and resolve potential health and safety risks before they manifest as accidents, incidents or compliance non-conformances,” says Marnewick.

The company also strives to integrate health and safety management in routine management functions and processes. Afrimat also seeks to proactively identify and eliminate (or, as a last resort, manage) all occupational health- and safety-related risks in the workplace.

Apart from health and safety, Qwa Qwa Quarry has demonstrated high standards in environmental management.


Apart from health and safety, Qwa Qwa Quarry has demonstrated high standards in environmental management. In 2022 – the implementation year of ASPASA’s revised Environmental Audit programme – the operation scored a remarkable 97,25%, placing third in the physical audit category. Anthony Bowen, Environmental auditor at ASPASA, tells Quarrying Africa that Qwa Qwa is an exceptionally well-run site and the attention to detail is incredible.

“The manager has got his team well motivated, and everybody shares a common goal. It is teamwork at its best. Anton Marnewick is an exceptional leader and has become quite a legend in the industry,” says Bowen.

In fact, Marnewick was awarded the Exceptional Performance Award for achieving three Showplace (above 95%) scores in the 2022 Environmental Audit for the three Afrimat quarry sites that he manages.

Afrimat takes the safety of its people, contractors and visitors seriously.

“In recent years, we have placed a great focus on our environmental management, which is growing in importance,” says Marnewick. “We started off with stormwater management and erosion control. Another area of great focus is waste management and control thereof. Alien vegetation control has also been an area of critical importance at Qwa Qwa. We have also spent time creating environmental awareness among our staff and educating them about the importance of protecting the environment.”

ASPASA director Letisha van den Berg says the focus on the environment and Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues in general, has grown in recent years and should be a priority for quarrying companies as they become even more conscious of the impact on the long-term sustainability of companies. Under Ven den Berg’s leadership, ASAPASA is casting more spotlight on environmental compliance, which, in her view, will grow in importance to surpass even safety in the near future.

In conclusion, Marnewick stresses the significance of compliance in the success of any quarry operation. He cautions, however, that it is much more than just a box-ticking exercise. “The lack of compliance can have dire consequences for operations. Remember, it is one of the key aspects that can lead to the revoking of a mining licence,” concludes Marnewick.

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