7 May 2018

 

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) repeated its earlier calls for a Safety Summit as well as a Commission of Inquiry in Mine Health and Safety, following the recent spate of mining accidents and fatalities.  The Union is demanding that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) steps up to the plate to play its rightful role of regulator in the mining industry.  AMCU will meet with the Minister of Mineral Resources to discuss its demands and proposals.

Already in October last year, following two fatalities at AngloGold-Ashanti’s Mponeng Operations, AMCU is on record calling for the establishment of a Commission of Inquiry into Mine Health and Safety.  At the time, just as during the incident at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Driefontein operations last Thursday, there were multiple seismic events which led to a fall of ground, trapping and eventually killing mineworkers underground.  At the time, AMCU said that “the commission must do in-depth research and identify technology to be employed to avoid such incidents in future”.

A similar commission, known as the Leon Commission of Inquiry into Safety and Health in the Mining Industry was set up in 1993 and its recommendations of 1995 laid the foundations for many of the health and safety structures and regulations in force today.  Still, AMCU believes that there are certain gaps in these regulations and implementation of recommendations, and therefore another commission is necessary.

In February this year directly after another fatality at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Driefontein operations, AMCU called for the convening of a Safety Summit.  At the time, AMCU said that it had “consistently pointed out that there are certain regulatory shortcomings regarding health and safety standards at mines”.  It also called for a Safety Audit at all the mines, to check adherence to regulations.

AMCU is also on record that the mining houses in general, and Sibanye-Stillwater in particular, are not directing sufficient financial resources towards addressing precautionary measures to avoid accidents, as well as contingency plans to deal with the resultant fall-out when accidents do occur.  AMCU has coined the phrase of “profit before people” to emphasise the tendency of mining bosses to underspend on key health and safety aspects of the operations, in their narrow pursuit of maximum production and maximum profit.

Sibanye-Stillwater has spared no expense in protecting their assets from zama-zama’s (illegal miners), such a security features and biometric identification systems to safeguard mineral resources.  Still, we fail to see equivalent investment in the health and safety of workers.

AMCU is now again calling for these measures to be implemented, under the custodianship of the DMR.  We firmly believe that it is the role of government to regulate the economy, and in the mining industry this role must be played by the DMR.  AMCU believes the DMR is currently failing in its regulatory role, and that it is biased towards mining houses without proper attention being paid to the socio-economic needs of workers and communities.

On 20 March 2018 an estimated 30 000 AMCU member marched to the Union Buildings and other DMR offices to highlight the failures of the DMR in regulating the mining industry, with the broader focus of DMR’s failures included its failure to properly implement and enforce the stipulations of the Mining and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA).

Part of AMCU’s memorandum of demands was that the DMR engages with AMCU to discuss these failures. To date, the DMR has not yet confirmed the date of this meeting.  We will certainly engage with the Minister of Mineral Resources to ensure that these matters get the attention they deserve.