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The Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources has called for harsher consequences on the Sibanye-Stillwater mine if the mine is found to have neglected measures to avert fatalities and loss of life prior to the seismic events that occurred there last week. Seven mine workers died underground and six more sustained injuries as a result of the seismic events.

“Although seismic events are a course of nature, it is high time that mining companies face serious consequences for neglecting measures for detecting early warning signs. Investigations on the accident should seek to establish the extent to which priority was given to health and safety at the mine,” says Olefile Sefako, Chairperson of the Committee.

Sibanye Stillwater under fire for safety recordThis call has been echoed by numerous unions. Cosatu and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members picketed outside the Chamber of Mines in Johannesburg’s city centre calling for improved safety in mines, and trade union Solidarity also expressed concern about safety.

“Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has not yet announced the official health and safety figures for mines in 2017, but according to provisional indications, 86 miners died in South African mines in 2017, compared to the 73 mining fatalities in 2016; the 77 in 2015; and the 84 in 2014.

Preliminary figures for 2018 also look bleak, with 33 fatalities recorded to date, compared to the 28 during the corresponding period last year, and the 25 during the corresponding period in 2016,” says Paul Mardon, Solidarity’s Deputy General Secretary for Occupational Health and Safety.

Cosatu and NUM have demanded that Sibanye Stillwater collaborates with them to develop and implement a “turnaround strategy on health and safety”, and that workers get paid leave when attending colleagues’ memorial services. They point out that of the 33 fatalities since the beginning of the year, 12 were at Sibanye Stillwater. “The sector’s performance on health and safety in the mines is unacceptable and it also does not bring us closer to the zero harm aspiration,” the unions said in a memorandum.

“We should spare no cost and no collaboration to ensure that workers are safe and their families are adequately cared for and compensated when disaster and tragedy strike,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said in a statement. “We also offer our best wishes to workers who have been directly or indirectly affected by this disaster, which should move the mining industry and government to jointly find ways to do all we can to protect our nation’s most valuable resource - the workers who are at the heart of our economy.”

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/governmentza/30962119356

Image Credit: Flickr/GovernmentZA

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