Samancor Chrome said on Monday it had shut down mine operations following a blast incident that claimed two lives.
The company denied that it had closed operations because mineworkers had downed tools and noted that the Department of Minerals and Energy had requested the company to stop all blasting activities pending an investigation of the incident.
The company said there were “severe production losses” since all blasting-related activities in these mines had been stopped. “The fact that a fatality occurred will have a far greater impact on the organisation as we are committed to zero harm and one life lost is one too many,” it said.
Samancor said the resumption of operations depended on the findings from the investigation that was underway in conjunction with the department and the union.
George Ledoaba, organiser at NUM, said workers started downing tools on Thursday and on Friday after two miners died on Wednesday at Tweefontein, one of the three mines operated by Samancor.
Ledoaba said the downing of tools did not mean this was a strike action.
He said Tweefontein will remain shut until it is declared safe. The other two mines – Lannex and Doornbosch – will remain partially operational from Monday, meaning that only maintenance and water drainage will be carried out, while blasting and drilling won’t take place until the company has “reviewed its blasting and drilling methods”, he said.
Ledoaba said preliminary investigation showed that proper blasting methods were not followed as some workers were still underground when the blasting happened.
“We are mourning. We will mourn whenever there is a fatality in our mines,” Ledoaba said.
The NUM appealed to all its members to continue to observe a day of mourning whenever a mineworker died in the mining industry.