Four workers have died and three are trapped underground as rescue efforts continue at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Masakhane Shaft in Westonaria, Johannesburg, which has been closed. This follows seismic incident causing a fall ground on 3 May that saw 13 mineworkers trapped underground. Six have since been rescued and are recovering in hospital.
Sibanye-Stillwater has an appalling safety record. Two workers died at Kloof mine in March, and earlier 1,000 workers were trapped underground when there was a power failure. Those workers were later brought safely to the ground when the power was restored.
Twenty-six mineworkers have died from mine accidents since the beginning of this year. In 2017, 30 per cent of the accidents were caused by seismic activities in gold mines which have become dangerous workplaces. After having seen a drop in mining accidents in South Africa, this all changed last year.
Laws and regulations seem unable to stop the rising death tolls from mining accidents. The Mining Health and Safety Act, which set up an inspectorate to monitor safety standards and stop violations, appear to have improved safety over the years before the reverse started happening.
IndustriALL Global Union affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is “concerned at the rate at which mining incidents are happening at Sibanye Stillwater”.
Says Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL director for mining:
“South African mines are increasingly becoming dangerous death traps for mineworkers, and this situation can’t be allowed to continue. The health and safety of workers who toil daily to feed their families is very important and mining companies have a responsibility to ensure safety standards that safeguard the precious lives of mineworkers are adhered to.”
Gwede Mantashe, the minister of mineral resources, says mining companies should put “greater attention to issues of safety, particularly the protection of lives of workers as opposed to the insistence on chasing production.” He promises that the government of South Africa will put together a team of experts to investigate the seismic activities.
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