Questions get louder as 2018 mining death toll rises

12 June 2018 - 11:28 By Timeslive
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/ iStockphoto

A search is under way for a fifth miner missing since Monday‚ following the discovery that four of his colleagues had died after entering an abandoned part of a Sibanye-Stillwater mine.

The mine said on Tuesday that rescue teams had located the deceased body of the fourth missing employee in an abandoned stope ore pass at its Kloof Ikamva shaft‚ after working through the night to locate and retrieve the employee.

Thabisile Phumo‚ head of stakeholder engagement: SA region‚ said: "The search for the fifth employee continues and further updates will be issued when more information becomes available."

The mine said the five employees had entered an abandoned working area. "A thorough investigation will be undertaken into the incident."

Sibanye-Stillwater expressed its condolences to the family members‚ friends and colleagues of the four miners.

Its operations at the shaft have been suspended for a day of mourning.

This brings to 18 the number of workers who have lost their lives in the line of duty at Sibanye’s mines since January this year‚ according to a statement by the parliamentary portfolio committee on mineral resources. The committee said it is concerned that nine lives have been lost in just two months.

Lashing out at the company‚ MPs said: "The committee strongly believes that the high number of deaths at Sibanye’s mines is a sign that unusual action should be taken."

"The committee also believes that the Department of Mineral Resources has questions to answer in the wake of these developments. Furthermore‚ the department should hold shareholders accountable for senior management’s remuneration packages and the dividends that are shared among them‚ over the dead bodies of mine workers."

Its chairperson Sahlulele Luzipo called for a swift and thorough inspection of the health and safety measures at Sibanye’s mines and urged maximum sanctions for any lapses.

The Minister of Mineral Resources‚ Gwede Mantashe‚ called on the industry to strengthen safety measures.

He noted this is the seventh accident leading to fatalities at the Sibanye-Stillwater operations‚ making the company the biggest contributor to fatalities in the sector since the beginning of the year.

"It is a great concern to us that this accident has occurred soon after the disaster at the company's Driefontein operations just a month ago" the Minister said.

"Health and safety of mineworkers and communities must receive our sharpest and special attention.

"It is the primary responsibility of every employer to provide a safe working space for its workers. As government‚ we have a responsibility of enforcing the laws governing health and safety. Workers fought for the right to refuse to work in dangerous conditions . . . and this right must be enforced."

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