5 May 2018

 

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) mourns the death of seven mineworkers following an incident at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Masakhane Shaft on Thursday, which left thirteen workers trapped underground.  AMCU sends its condolences to the loved ones of the mineworkers, and has called for production to remain halted until the investigation is finales.  The Union undertakes to heighten its campaign in ensuring that the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) ups its game in regulating mining in South Africa.  The Union will be meeting with Minister Gwede Mantashe to discuss the failures of DMR in this and other regards.

According to reports, while seven of the mineworkers passed away, six other mineworkers were hospitalised where four are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and two others are critical.  The body of the last of the seven deceased workers was recovered in the early hours of this morning.

AMCU’s prayers are with the families of the trapped mineworkers.  We send our condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of these workers, and we pray that those in hospital will have a speedy recovery.  In the meantime, AMCU has demanded that Masakhane Shaft remains closed until all investigations are finalised.

AMCU wants to correct the Minister Gwede Mantashe who yesterday, during his meeting with unions and management blamed the late Health & Safety Representative for not withdrawing the team after the first seismic event.  This is unfortunate as only management in the control room on the surface would have had access to seismic information.  It is unfair to expect the steward who was underground with the workers at the time, to know exactly what was going on.  The blame should therefore be placed squarely at the door of line management, as the Miner and Mining Captain would have had the necessary information to pull the team to a place of safety after the first event.

We still stand by saying that mine safety has now become a human rights issue, and the legislation should be strengthened to hold mining bosses criminally accountable for failing to ensure safety at operations.  Mining companies should also face civil claims when these accidents happen.  It is simply ludicrous that the life of a mineworker is worth a mere 36 months of basic salary.  AMCU has proposed a system much similar to the Road Accident Fund (RAF), in order to compensate workers and their families when these tragic events occur.

AMCU is also on record for criticising the DMR for failing in its role of regulator in the mining industry.  We continue saying that DMR should ensure that the profit-hungry ventures of mining bosses should be duly balanced with the lives and wellness of human beings.

On 20 March 2018 AMCU marched to the Union Buildings and other DMR offices to highlight the failures of the DMR in regulating the mining industry.  Even though the main issue during this march, which attracted an estimated 30 000 AMCU members in various cities, was that of the sustainability of mining operations and resultant mass-retrenchments, 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, and the DMR has invited AMCU to a meeting in this regard.

We will certainly ensure that we engage with Minister Gwede Mantashe on the issue of mine safety.  Every day our mineworkers risk life and limb to put bread on the table for their families.  Mine safety has become a human rights issue, and the Department must step up to the plate to protect the workers against the overt focus on profit over people.

Once the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) has concluded its enquiry, AMCU will interrogate the reports and comment on the causes of, and solutions to the problems which led to this incident.