Posted on: January 21, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

A winch operator died at Harmony Gold Mining Company’s Bambanani mine in the Free State after a ground fall, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Thursday.

The fall happened at 2,913 metres below the surface in a stope panel at about 22:00 local yesterday, and the miner’s body was recovered at 02:00 today, it said.

Harmony said that operations had been stopped until such time as all investigations into the accident had been completed.

Harmony CE Graham Briggs and his management team expressed their sincere condolences to the families of the deceased and those affected by the incident.

“It took four hours for the body to be recovered as the deceased was completely covered by rocks,” said Erick Gcilitshana, the NUM’s national secretary for health and safety.

The union pointed to fatalities already reported in 2011, including the death of a continuous miner operator at Sigma Colliery in the Free State after a ground fall on January 6, the death of a miner at Northam Platinum (NHM) at Four Level following a mud rush on January 9, and the death of a winch operator on January 13 after an explosion during cleaning operations as he was struck by a fly rock at Rustenburg Platinum Mines’s Dishaba mine.

On January 17, a worker died at Xstrata Wonderkop, after being caught between a motor and a handrail when a skip broke, while on January 18 a miner fell from the stage to the bottom of the shaft (about 70m) and died at Goldfields’s (GFI) South Deep mine.

The NUM said it was disappointed by the figures “and angry that the captains of the mining industry as represented by the Chamber of Mines refer to all these deaths as ‘improvement’.

“The NUM is infuriated by the cheap public relations efforts of the Chamber of Mines, choosing to parade themselves with their expensive suits in front of television cameras in the name of ‘improved safety’ instead of tangibly investing in safety,” it said.

The union said it was not convinced by the “hot air blown by the chamber” in announcing what it calls “bold action to advance safety” when those bold actions are not translated into action. “No amount of cheap talk and workshops would save workers from seismicity in the aging gold mines, but investment in safety monitoring systems (would).

“2011 will be an extremely hard year for the mining industry if it continues to blow hot air and safety socks are not pulled up,” NUM said.

Source: I-Net Bridge

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