Since January this year, 17 workers have been killed in South African mines. Last week a worker died from an accident at a Sibanye Stillwater operation which mines platinum in Rustenburg while another died at De Beers Venetia diamond mine in Limpopo early this week. Recently, at another Sibanye Still water mine, Kloof Thuthukani Shaft in Westonaria, 79 mineworkers were trapped underground for five hours but later brought to the surface safely.
South African mines, the world’s deepest, are becoming death traps for mineworkers. Most accidents are caused by seismic activity, and when rocks explode under pressure.
According to the Chamber of Mines, 82 mineworkers died in 2017 as compared to 73 in 2016. Earlier efforts to achieve “Zero Harm” as per Culture Transformation Framework for the South African Mining Sector appears to be lapsing. The framework emphasizes on having a mining industry that is “safe, healthy and productive with risks controlled at their source through collaborative action from all tripartite stakeholders.”
IndustriALL affiliate the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says the accidents and fatalities and worsening mine safety is the result of mining companies being less concerned about workers’ lives and more interested in making profits.
Says Peter Bailey, NUM Health and Safety Chairperson:
Since January this year, 17 mineworkers have died, and five fatalities happened at Sibanye Stillwater. We are calling for a more serious intervention at Sibanye Stillwater operations in South Africa. We don’t want to end up in a situation where workers are killed, and it becomes normal.
The NUM is appealing to the government of South Africa to investigate the working conditions at the mines including working hours and leave days as they are fears that workers are working long hours and not being given enough resting time. Adequate training on health and safety as well as communications between mining companies and workers should also be improved.
Glen Mpufane IndustriALL mining director says:
It is unacceptable that workers continue to die from preventable accidents caused by working in unsafe working conditions in the mines. Mining companies should adhere to the highest safety standards and follow due diligence to protect workers lives. Otherwise the mining industry is profiting at the expense of workers lives.
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