Unions unite as mine fatalities decrease
Gold and platinum mines account for the most deaths in the industry
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.
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.
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.