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Sun Oct 02 00:20:49 SAST 2016

NUM prevented from entering Lily Gold Mine

NEO GOBA | 24 March, 2016 15:07
Security guards keep watch at the entrance of the Lily mine, which is owned by Vantage Goldfields, near Barberton, east of Johannesburg, February 5, 2016.
Image by: SIPHIWE SIBEKO / REUTERS

National Union of Mineworkers were on Tuesday barred from entering the premises of Vantage Goldfields Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga as they were not “recognised”.

This comes as NUM Deputy President Joseph Montisetsi had planned to meet with the management of Vantage Goldfields.

To his surprise, Montisetsi was told by security guards placed at the entrance that management had given them a directive not to let them in as they only recognised the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Workers Union (AMCU) which represents the majority of their mineworkers.

“When we got to the gate, we were informed that management had cancelled the meeting because there would be conflict. It was  a surprise to us because we asked for a meeting last week Wednesday and everything was confirmed.

“Our problem is that people are still trapped underground and we don’t know if they are still alive or dead… so we wanted to meet with [Vantage Goldfields] management as a union which has experience in the mining industry,” said Montisetsi, who drove close to three hours to get to Barberton.

NUM’s deputy president said all they wanted to do was to share their knowledge as they know what needs to be done in order to rescue the three trapped workers.

Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda were in a lamp room that was housed in a container near the entrance to the mine, when the central pillar of ore, called a crown pillar, collapsed on February 5  . The container was swallowed up in a sink hole as big as a rugby field.

Seventy-six miners were rescued.

Montisetsi added that they were going to investigate the Lily mine management as to why they operated without having an escape route and secondly, to hear why rock mechanics didn’t report to the safety department - as required - that an earthquake may materialise. 

“I will report this to the national office and also to COSATU (The Congress of South African Trade Unions) and we will engage on a massive campaign because we suspect that these people have agreed with AMCU that people who are underground must be left there,” said Montisetsi, questioning the suspension of the rescue operations for six months.

He said the campaign will also include the Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane and is most likely to start soon.

Vantage Goldfields spokesperson Coetzee Zietsman confirmed to The Times that indeed they didn’t grant NUM representatives entry into their site.

“There was no meeting that was supposed to take place because NUM is not represented on the mine at all. NUM called us earlier last week to set up a meeting because they also wanted access to the mines to meet the families and we told them that we could not give them access because there is no members on the mine that belong to their union,” said Zietsman.

He went on to say that NUM representatives were making noise outside the gate to try and make them change their mind about denying them entry.

“We didn’t allow them [to come in] for that very same reason and neither do they hold any authority with the families,” said Zietsman, adding that families have since gone back to their homes.

Meanwhile on Friday, AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa called on the Department of Mineral Resources to start a preliminary investigation into the mining disaster at Lily mine.

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