SUMMARY: The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is calling for an inquest after mining house Sibanye-Stillwater records the fifth death at its Marikana platinum operations. The Union says that Sibanye-Stillwater is cutting corners in safety protocols and that the government fails to ensure the implementation of the necessary health and safety protocols. AMCU calls for a formal inquest into the record rates of fatalities in the South African Mining Industry (SAMI).
The latest death happened at approximately 8:45 at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Marikana East 3 Shaft, when a Rock Drill Operator (RDO) was killed by a dislodged rock while performing an early entry examination on Panel 1, 24 X-CUT at 10 level East.
“Our deepest condolences go to the family, loved ones and colleagues of our fallen comrade”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “It is always tragic when a breadwinner is killed while working hard to put food on the table, and every mineworker killed by the mines, is one too many”, Mathunjwa said.
This brings the total deaths in the mining sector for the year to date to a record-breaking 59, with Sibanye-Stillwater accounting for a total of thirteen (13) fatalities at its gold and platinum operations in South Africa. Sibanye-Stillwater’s Marikana operations are proving to be the most dangerous mine to work in, leading the score with five (5) workers killed from January 2021 until today. Under Lonmin, safety records at the Marikana operations were gradually improving, but since Sibanye took over it became increasingly worse.
“That is one of the reasons why AMCU was opposed to Sibanye-Stillwater’s take-over of Lonmin. At the time, we made extensive submissions to the Competition Commission, pointing out their (Sibanye-Stillwater’s) horrible safety record, but the take-over went through and look where we are today. We knew that the shortcuts taken by Sibanye-Stillwater will lead to death and despair at Marikana, and we were right”, Mathunjwa said.
“As AMCU, we are shocked by the rate at which this company [Sibanye-Stillwater] is killing our comrades”, said Mathunjwa. “We honestly don’t know what to do anymore. We have written numerous letters, and specifically asked their Board of Directors for a meeting, but they refused. We tried to have a meeting with their CEO, but nothing transpired from that, and just last week we wrote to their COO, but still the deaths continue”, Mathunjwa related.
“What is worse, is that it is clear that our government has absolutely no appetite to take action against the gross negligence of Sibanye-Stillwater”, said Mathunjwa. “The DMRE [Department of Mineral Resources and Energy] does nothing at a high level, and even the NPA [National Prosecuting Authority] clearly has not appetite to prosecute these mining bosses”, Mathunjwa said.
“This very same CEO [Neal Froneman] was supposed to be arrested long ago for killing mineworkers in his greed for greater profit”, he said. “But nothing happens to them – they continue earning millions and having lavish lifestyles on the blood money earned in our mines. Black mineworkers have become the sacrificial atonement for their gods of platinum and gold”, Mathunjwa said.
On the other hand, Sibanye-Stillwater has recorded huge profits despite the Covid-19 coronavirus. According to their operating and financial results declared at the end of August 2021, Sibanye-Stillwater made a profit attributable to shareholders of R24,8 billion as at the end of June 2021. They also showed a mammoth 59% increase in free cash flow to R17,3 billion and managed to decrease their borrowing with R12,2 billion.
Following this morning’s fatality, the DMRE will perform an in loco investigation, after which Sibanye-Stillwater will be compelled to do its own investigation in terms of section 11.5 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA).
“We cannot allow this slaughtering of workers to continue while the mining bosses show no remorse. It again shows us that black lives don’t matter at all. If these were white people who were killed at this rate, we would have even seen the United Nations come to intervene”, Mathunjwa said.
“We hereby call for a formal inquest into these senseless killings”, said Mathunjwa. “We need an independent panel of experts to expose how these mines are cutting corners and killing breadwinners through their negligence”, he said. “As AMCU, we will spare no resource in fighting for the safety of workers”, Mathunjwa concluded.