* Jan 1-March 12 fatalities down y/y to 22 from 27
* Minister says will continue stopping unsafe areas
PRETORIA, March 20 (Reuters) - Fatalities are falling in South Africa's mines as the industry is subjected to a surge of inspections, and the country's mines minister said on Tuesday she would not relent despite industry complaints.
Susan Shabangu told a news briefing that from Jan. 1 to March 12 of this year, 22 miners were killed in South Africa's mines compared to 27 in the same period in 2011.
The number of injuries fell sharply over the same period by 40 percent to 403 from 667.
"Whilst there is improvement in the statistics, I'm of the opinion that there is room for improvement as the fatalities in the mining industry are still unacceptable," she said.
"The department will continue with the stance of stopping unsafe working areas."
The department of mineral resources has launched a safety drive to cut fatalities in the country's mines, the world's deepest and among the most dangerous.
The industry has complained about the blanket nature of the safety stoppages ordered by the department which has seen entire mines shut down for infractions in one shaft or operation.
The safety-related stoppages cost the platinum sector 300,000 ounces last year in lost output. (Reporting by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Mark Potter)