Miners should focus on safety and not on performance bonuses for targets, said the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).
“Sometimes our mining industry acts more like the taxi industry,” NUM president Senzani Zokwana told media in Johannesburg.
“These mines are focused on more trips to get more money which compromises the safety of others.”
Zokwana said mine owners should slow down and deal with providing a better basic wage for miners, rather than offering bonuses for productivity… which encouraged miners to take risks and potentially endanger lives.
“If you look at a company like AngloGold, my answer would be yes, they are not genuine in addressing their ‘zero fatalities’ policy as long as they offer bonuses as motivation,” Zokwana said.
Lessons from Chile
He said South African could learn many lessons from the Chile mining rescue operation, in which countries and companies were working together to free 33 miners who had been trapped 688 metres underground for 69 days.
“We can take this home to us and say, do our mines meet the requirements of the law in terms of safety?”
Zokwana said the country had the knowledge and skills to deal with deep mines, but what was lacking was the implementation of safety legislation by private mine owners.
“Without a strong inspectorate, workers would not be safe if owners alone were in charge of safety because they are focused on cost and profit,” he said.
NUM national secretary for health and safety Eric Gcilitshana said more initiative was needed from private companies to assist with mine accidents, as was the case with Murray & Roberts in providing the drills needed to break through to trapped Chilean miners.
“People are asking why this company hasn’t helped with all our local accidents… but it’s because they didn’t open up about their capacity to help… until we saw it for ourselves on TV,” Gcilitshana said.