28 March 2018

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) learnt with sadness of the death of two workers at Harmony Gold’s Joel Mine. AMCU is concerned over the causes of the accident, and indications that mine management might have been aware of possible dangers in the area involved.

This brings the total number of mineworker deaths to 22 since 1 January 2018. In this week alone, another two mineworkers perished in the line of duty – one at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Khuseleka operations near Rustenburg, and the other one at De Beers’ Venetia mine near Musina. AMCU is shocked at the fact that workers are still toiling for slave wages, while mining bosses pursue super profits at all cost. The least they can do is to ensure the safety of workers!

According to reports, yesterday’s fatalities were the result of a seismic event at Level 137 of Joel Mine near Welkom in the Free State. The seismic event took place yesterday at 8:54 and triggered a fall of ground. Two workers were fatally injured by the fall of ground. They were busy investigating a seal fissure which led to water leaking from the footwall. The men were aged 58 and 51, and both were married with children. AMCU sends it condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of the workers who passed away.

AMCU has received reports that seem to indicate negligence on the part of mine management. We are told that the specific area was not mined for around twenty years and that it was closed due to geological issues. AMCU is perturbed that management did not follow the standard start- up procedure, which would include a risk assessment and specifically an investigation of geological conditions.

Even worse, AMCU learns that management instructed employees to go underground this morning. This, despite the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) issuing an instruction to stop mining operations in terms of section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA). This instruction compels the mine to first ensure that everything is safe again, before workers are permitted to enter the affected areas again.

AMCU has continuously campaigned against the focus on compensation for deaths and injuries, over a focus on prevention of accidents. We know that this is because the lives of workers are

cheap, and they earn slave wages in South Africa. This means that the compensation amounts are miniscule in comparison with the costs of investing in safety measurers at mines. In their narrow pursuit of super profits, mining bosses prefer to be reactive and merely pay peanuts for the lives of workers.

Just last week AMCU embarked on nationwide protest action in terms of section 77 of the Labour Relations Act. This socio-economic protest action highlighted the failure of the DMR to ensure strict adherence to legislation and regulations. AMCU called for stricter regulation and legislative amendments to guarantee that mining companies will not pursue profit over people.

Nevertheless, AMCU will participate in the incident investigation in terms of section 60 of the Act, as well as the subsequent fatal inquiry in terms of section 65. AMCU calls on the DMR to ensure compliance and hasten its investigations so that the causes of this tragic event can be determined.