Carlman Moyo, regional director for DuPont Sub-Saharan Africa, said a culture of safety needed to start with top executives and stressed that mining houses could not continue to use the same practices they had been employing for decades.

The recent spate of mining accidents should be a wake-up call for miners and governments around the world, according to Moyo, who said safety practices in mines needed a clear shake up.

Moyo told The Times that recent accidents in West Virginia, US, China and South Africa show that current safety practices are not working.

Moyo said a number of safety measures focus exclusively on sustaining trapped miners long enough to rescue them, not on preventing underground explosions and disasters.

“Preventive measures could include requiring coal companies to pump out the methane gas before mining a coal deposit and conducting more accurate testing to determine the flammability of conveyer belts and other mine equipment, the most common causes of mine fires,” Moyo said.

Moyo said the industry in South Africa, where minimum safety levels are in place, is under-resourced to police basic safety compliance.

US President Barack Obama said in an address about the recent West Virginian mining accident that safety precautions should be the primary focus of mining companies which often put business before the safety of staff.