Unions unite as mine fa­tal­i­ties de­crease

Gold and plat­inum mines ac­count for the most deaths in the in­dus­try

The Star Early Edition - - BUSI­NESS RE­PORT - Ka­belo Khu­malo

MIN­ERAL Re­sources Min­is­ter, Mosebenzi Zwane, said yes­ter­day the num­ber of min­ers killed in mines last year fell 5 per­cent to a record low of 73 from 77, while unions called to for an end to ri­valry among them­selves and to work to­gether to erad­i­cate deaths and in­juries.

The in­dus­try recorded 2 662 in­juries. The gold and plat­inum mines ac­counted for 57 of the 73 fa­tal­i­ties in the in­dus­try, with the coal sec­tor record­ing four deaths in the pe­riod. Fa­tal­i­ties from il­le­gal min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties did not fea­ture in the sta­tis­tics.

How­ever, Zwane said four min­ers had al­ready lost their lives since the be­gin­ning of this year.

In­juries in the sec­tor de­creased by 15 per­cent in the pe­riod from the 3138 in­juries re­ported in 2015.

The Depart­ment of Min­eral Re­sources (DMR) at­trib­uted the ma­jor­ity of in­juries in the sec­tor to re­peat ac­ci­dents.

Zwane said com­pli­ance to mine and safety was non-ne­go­tiable and the depart­ment wanted to pros­e­cute those com­pa­nies that pri­ori­tised prof­its ahead of lives of work­ers.

“The depart­ment has ini­ti­ated dis­cus­sions with the Na­tional Pros­e­cut­ing Au­thor­ity to strengthen the abil­ity to pros­e­cute those neg­li­gent in their re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, in as far as fa­tal­i­ties, in­juries and oc­cu­pa­tional dis­eases in the sec­tor are con­cerned,” Zwane said.

He said the depart­ment would not hes­i­tate to ap­ply sec­tion 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act. Last year, the DMR shut down Sibanye Gold’s Kroon­dal mine af­ter an ac­ci­dent oc­curred. Sec­tion 54 em­pow­ers the govern­ment to stop min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in the event of an ac­ci­dent.

Mike Teke, the pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber of Mines, said de­spite mines op­er­at­ing in con­di­tions re­garded as the most chal­leng­ing in the world, progress had been made

The safety per­for­mance of South African mines com­pared favourably with sec­tors such as con­struc­tion in South Africa and sim­i­lar mines in the US, Aus­tralia and Canada. The South African coal mines con­tin­ued to be among the safest mines in the world, Teke said.

Bit­ter ri­valry

The three ma­jor unions in the min­ing sec­tor yes­ter­day united in call­ing for an end to bit­ter ri­valry among them­selves and work to­gether to erad­i­cate deaths and in­juries in the sec­tor, this is af­ter 73 min­ers died last year with 2 662 in­juries recorded in the in­dus­try.

The Na­tional Union of Minework­ers (NUM), the As­so­ci­a­tion of Minework­ers and Con­struc­tion Union (Amcu), and Sol­i­dar­ity said the con­tes­ta­tion among the unions had led to em­ploy­ers re­lax­ing their health and safety stan­dards, to the detri­ment of the work­ers.

The unions were re­act­ing to the DMR’s re­lease of last year’s sta­tis­tics on health and safety in the sec­tor.

Peter Bai­ley, the na­tional chair­man of health and safety at NUM, said while com­pe­ti­tion among trade unions was nat­u­ral, it was not when it came to health and safety.

“The com­pe­ti­tion had cre­ated a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for em­ploy­ers to lax safety com­pli­ance. Work­ers must bury the hatchet and unite.”

He was sup­ported by Gabriel Nkosi, the na­tional safety co-or­di­na­tor at Amcu, who said com­pli­ance to safety must take pri­or­ity over po­lit­i­cal views.

“We can ar­gue about many mat­ters, but the safety of work­ers must be the one thing we unite and be firm on, our mem­bers de­serve to go back to their fam­i­lies alive,” Nkosi said.

Paul Mar­don, the head of oc­cu­pa­tional health and safety at Sol­i­dar­ity, said it was im­por­tant that work­ers unite to en­sure safety.

“Unions must work to­gether and stop point­ing fin­gers at each other. We must re­alise that health and safety is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of every­body,” said Mar­don said.

PHOTO: SIM­PHIWE MBOKAZI

Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter, Mosebenzi Zwane, and the pres­i­dent of the Cham­ber of Mines, Mike Teke, at the re­lease of 2016 sta­tis­tics on health and safety in the min­ing sec­tor in Rand­fontein. Zwane says the depart­ment wants to pros­e­cute firms that pri­ori­tise prof­its over work­ers’ lives.

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