The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is horrified upon receiving reports of a fifteenth mineworker being killed at Sibanye-Stillwater. Even though the information is still being gathered, the initial reports confirm that another mineworker was killed at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Khuseleka Shaft in Rustenburg this morning while burying the panel.
This is the fifteenth worker killed by Sibanye-Stillwater for the year to date, with workers numbers thirteen and fourteen killed just two days ago at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix operations in the Free State.
“Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family and loved ones of our fallen comrade. We are without words”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “We don’t know what to say anymore. Sibanye-Stillwater is now killing workers almost on a daily basis, and all our efforts thus far seem to be bearing no fruit”, he added.
AMCU has previously written to Sibanye-Stillwater’s CEO, Neal Froneman about the escalating deaths at his mines, but this came to naught. The Union then wrote to the Sibanye-Stillwater Board of Directors, asking for an urgent engagement, but the Board refused to meet with AMCU. AMCU wrote several letters to the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) about the issue of record deaths in the mining sector, but these letters were not even responded to.
“This issue [of mining fatalities] is becoming a national disaster now”, said Mathunjwa. “Workers are slaves who are forced to work in dangerous conditions, while the fat mining bosses rake in their mega profits and cut corners when it comes to safety. We [the workers] are slaves serving a life sentence, awaiting their death. We are slaves on death row”, he said.
In its letter to Chairperson of the Sibanye-Stillwater Board of Directors, AMCU explained how safety in mining is a function of the investment that mines are prepared to make in the necessary safety infrastructure. The Union said that any risk identified in mining can be mitigated by means of safety protocols, proper maintenance and investment in technology.
Unfortunately, the reality is that mines continuously weigh up the value of investing in infrastructure as compared to declaring greater profits for investment in other operational priorities or paying of dividends to shareholders. This is especially true for Sibanye-Stillwater.
There are numerous reports of Sibanye-Stillwater investing billions in other countries – money which was made off the blood and sweat of South African workers. Every year, Sibanye-Stillwater pays itself millions in bonuses, but when it comes to investing in safety of the workers who toil for those bonuses, the silence is deafening.
“The silence from our government is also deafening”, said Mathunjwa. “Not even a single statement or merely expression of condolences to the loved ones of these breadwinners. One would expect the DMRE to step up to the plate and intervene when things get out of hand like this, but they do nothing. It is just business as usual”, Mathunjwa remarked.
The Union previously made submissions for amendments to the MHSA to hold mining bosses accountable, and it continuously repeats this clarion call. AMCU also recently called on the DMRE to lead an inquest into the rising mining fatalities this year. The total number of fatalities for 2021 currently stands at 67, already surpassing the fatalities of 2020 (60) and 2019 (51) at year-end.
“It is all about profit and their bottom line”, said Mathunjwa. “While they have billions to invest elsewhere and pay themselves millions in bonuses, they cry poverty when they need to pay their workers and invest in safety. It is common cause that higher profit leads to higher risk, but they ignore this fact and just keep on killing our comrades while raking in their profits”, Mathunjwa concluded.
For interviews: AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa