Following the death on nine mine workers at Impala Platinum’s Rustenburg operations, the Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) is adamant that a thorough investigation is due.
The Union issued a statement that said: ‘Any evidence of negligence must lead to prosecution and punishment of those responsible and everything must be done to rectify the conditions which led to this fatal accident. The number of accidents at South African mines is still far too high.’
According to the Union, safety is not given the necessary priority and companies must stop giving lip service and start producing.
In the mean time, trade union Solidarity stated that one mineworker dies every second day in South Africa. Currently the death toll at South African mines is already standing on 104. Says union spokesperson Dirk Hermann: ‘South African mining is a safety nightmare, with accidents waiting to happen. Although accidents repeatedly take place due to reasons beyond the control of mining companies, as in the case of seismic activities, poor safety decisions play a significant part in mining deaths.’
The union continued by stating that the mining industry has a flagging safety record, claiming that the sector has taken its eye off the safety ball. Every now and then the industry goes through a safety phase, with increased focus on safety and once it has improved, safety issues are once again neglected. Says Jaco Kleynhans of the Union: ‘Right now the industry has to refocus’.
Trade union UASA has also issued a statement saying that it deplored the underground accident at Impala Platinum. Says spokesman Franz Stehring: ‘We will not negotiate danger and dirty money for our members and we make it our business to ensure that our members work under safe and healthy conditions.’
There has been a concerted drive on a number of fronts to make mines safety. This is particularly noticeable in the gold mining sector, where an influx of new chief executives in the major companies has made safety a priority.
Furthermore the government has clamped down on mines where deaths have occurred, in some instances shutting down areas on a temporary basis. Fines for fatalities have also been upped.