The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is mourning the loss of two mineworkers at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu Shaft close to Carletonville. According to reports, there was a seismic event at 02:27 on Thursday morning which resulted in a fall of ground at 109 – 24 W2 panel and raise. The event measured 2,5 on the Richter Scale.
It is reported that the proto team was able to rescue a winch driver, and he was taken to hospital for medical attention. The bodies of the second winch driver and the team leader were recovered under the debris, and it appears that they were fatally injured when the event took place.
“Our prayers go out to the loved ones of the two fallen comrades”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “We pray that our Lord comforts them during this trying time in their lives”, he added. “We also pray for the speedy recovery of those who have been injured”, he said.
The geological features of the Witwatersrand and specifically the Carletonville area with its many deep mines, make it prone to such seismic events. This means that the mines must take great care when designing their operations to withstand seismicity of a particular magnitude. For instance, pillars must act as primary support for other supports methods to be secondary, in an effort to minimise incidents related to fall of ground.
“There is a common misperception that fatalities caused by seismic events are not preventable”, said Mathunjwa. “However, when the mining bosses know that an area is prone to these events, they need to spend more time and resources on ensuring that the structure holds when they do occur”, he said.
Under section 23 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA), mineworkers have the right to refuse to enter a workplace which they deem to be dangerous. Still, many mining bosses force mineworkers to work in unsafe conditions and threaten them when they want to exercise their rights in terms of section 23.
“Even our safety reps, who are there to ensure compliance with the [Mine Health and Safety] Act and regulations, are being victimised when they attempt to bring these dangers under the attention of the mining bosses”, said Mathunjwa. “This undermines their role and responsibility as well as the purpose of the [Mine Health and Safety] Act”, he added.
AMCU has consistently called for amendments to the MHSA to inter alia put in place harsher penalties to those charged with ensuring workers’ safety, namely the mining bosses and managers who expose workers to unsafe working conditions and fail to take due care in ensuring their safety.
The total number of fatal accidents due to fall of ground events for the year to date stands at 17, accounting for 36% of all the mining related accidents this year. Harmony Gold has recorded 10 of the total of 47 fatalities in the South African Mining Industry (SAMI) for 2021, of which 6 were due to fall of ground.
“It is important to remember that these are not just numbers – each fatality represents a breadwinner and his or her family and loved ones. We will continue with our campaign to hold these bosses accountable. It is not right that we lose breadwinners who toil underground just because the bosses fail to invest in safety measures. It is time that they account for killing our comrades”, Mathunjwa concluded.
For interviews: AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa