The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has learnt of fatal accident at Mzimkhulu Colliery in Mpumalanga Province. The Union reports that it requested a list of mines exempted from the national lockdown, but that none was forthcoming. AMCU then provides provisional safety statistics for the mining sector to date, including national statistics on the Covid-19 coronavirus.
In the early hours of Wednesday, 1 April 2020, a worker was fatally injured in a conveyor belt-related incident at Mzimkhulu Colliery, which is located near Kendal Power Station, between Delmas and Emalahleni. Reportedly, the worker was caught between the conveyor belt and the transfer chute.
AMCU questions whether the required safety mechanisms were in place to prevent such an accident, and also why there appears to have been no engineering controls to prevent an employee getting dragged by a conveyor belt.
Just last week, AMCU wrote to the Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Mr Gwede Mantashe. In the letter, the Union expressed its disappointment with the blanket allowances for the exemption of specifically coalmines from the Covid-19 national lockdown. AMCU also asked for a list of these mines, as undertook by the Minister at an earlier engagement. This was done for the express purpose of allocating resources to these mines in the case of any incident occurring. The Minister has yet to respond to AMCU’s letter.
At this stage it is unclear whether Mzimkhulu Colliery was granted exemption status as an essential service.
Update on provisional safety statistics:
Provisional fatalities in the South African mining industry currently stand at thirteen (13), with injuries at 467 year-to-date (as at 23 March 2019). With this fatality, the total is 14.
Coronavirus deaths in South Africa officially stand at 5, with 1353 infections. This invisible killer must be dealt with effectively and efficiently. We implore all employees to be mindful of safe hygiene practices and follow all sanctioned directives. We appeal to all employers in the country to ensure protection of their employees’ health and safety and that of their families and loved ones.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) welcomes the radical interventions announced by the honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa to contain the spread of Covid-19. The Union calls for calm during this trying period, urging its members and all citizens to abide by the measures so that the coronavirus can be contained.
In his live address to the South African nation this evening, the honourable State President announced a national lockdown to commence on 26 March 2020, as well as several other interventions to address the fallout.
“As AMCU, we welcome the national lockdown of three weeks to contain the spread of the virus. As we indicated earlier, we believe that this is the only way to mitigate the contamination of citizens”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “We are especially grateful for the interventions announced to lighten the burden on the most vulnerable members of our society, as well as workers”, he added.
“We call on all our members to remain calm and focused during these trying times and ensure that they abide by the measures implemented by the State,” Mathunjwa said. “All citizens now have to act in unison if we are to soften the effects of this pandemic,” Mathunjwa added.
AMCU will engage with the captains of industry and its members to comply and support the measures and interventions announced by the honourable State President.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to announce radical interventions to contain the spread of Covid-19. The Union proposes various interventions such as a total shutdown of big employers for a period, with the employees continuing to receive income and benefits, as well as a general waiver on the submission of medical certificates for absence due to sickness, during this period. AMCU says it is important to lighten the blow of this pandemic on workers, as they are the driving force behind the South African economy.
Honourable President Cyril Ramaphosa yesterday convened with political leaders and captains of industry to strategise on the containment of the coronavirus pandemic. The State President is expected to brief the nation this evening on the outcomes of this session.
Noting the rapid infection rate that is characterising the pandemic, AMCU is calling on President Ramaphosa to announce radical interventions to contain its spread.
“As AMCU, we have already written to the CEOs of mining houses and employers in other sectors to implement measures to contain this pandemic”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “While we have welcomed the earlier announcements of the Honourable State President on measures to contain the virus, we feel that much more needs to be done as a matter of urgency if we want to stop the rapid spread of this disease,” Mathunjwa added.
Most economists and political analysts agree that Covid-19 is not only a serious health crisis, but also a social and an economic crisis in the making. Many workers stand to lose their incomes and our economy, which was already grasping for air, will be given another massive blow.
“We call on the Honourable State President to immediately declare that all operations that employ large numbers of workers in a single space, must be locked down for a period of at least three weeks,” Mathunjwa said. “However, no worker should forfeit any of the wages due to them until we emerge from this crisis,” he said. “Only workers in essential service must be allowed to continue working, on condition that the strictest health and safety protocols are observed and they are issued with the necessary preventative equipment and PPE [Personal Protective Equipment]”, Mathunjwa said.
“They must also be paid a danger or risk allowance, which could be called a Covid-19 allowance, as they are risking their lives on a daily basis”, he added.
“In view of the continuous advice that those who feel sick must rather stay home than visit the doctor, we also request for the Honourable State President to declare that no worker may be penalised from being off sick without submitting a medical certificate during this period,” Mathunjwa added.
In its earlier letter to employers, AMCU proposed measures like the installation of thermal scanners and conversion of disused buildings into quarantine and treatment centres.
Standard Bank of South Africa earlier announced a payment holiday of three (3) months for small business owners, and several other organisations have made similar proposals. The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) also cut interest rates with 100 basis points last week.
“While we welcome the measures already implemented, it is time that we look at the effect of this pandemic on the workers,” said Mathunjwa. “It is important to note that workers and their spending power is the driving force behind our economy, and if we don’t look after them first, we will all suffer,” he added. “We implore on Honourable President Ramaphosa to announce radical measures”, Mathunjwa concluded.
AMCU has written several memorandums to its own internal structures and offices, containing measures on how to contain Covid-19. These include access control to and hygiene measures for offices at national, regional and branch levels, as well as guidelines on dealing with absences and meetings.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) today wrote to all CEOs of mining houses to caution on the detection and control of the Coronavirus. The Union questions the readiness of mining houses to deal with the inherent dangers of especially working areas in mines, where confinement of large groups of workers, compressed air and high levels of heat exacerbate the risk of infection and transmission of the disease. The Union calls on mining houses to urgently convene a Coronavirus Summit for the Mining Sector in order to ensure continuous evaluation of risks and concomitant action by all stakeholders.
Earlier today AMCU received reports of the first South African case that tested positive to Covid-19, also known as Coronavirus. In a letter directed to all CEOs of mining houses, the Union stated that this event confirms that South Africa is now one of the countries that now have a footprint for this dreaded and highly infectious disease. The letter calls on captains of industry and progressive forces like AMCU to work with the State in putting measures to prepare, prevent and respond to the virus.
AMCU states that the Coronavirus permeates social and workplace boundaries, concluding that it is therefore a multifaceted problem, wherever large groups of people are forced together in confined spaces. In the letter, AMCU points out that especially mineworkers are forced to earn their livings in cramped areas with compressed air and high heat. Working spaces like lifts known as “cages” are the ideal breeding ground for this disease. AMCU calls on mining houses to establish their own detection and treatment centres, to limit the impact on mine workers and mining communities.
AMCU requests mining houses to brief the Union on the state of arrangements and measures to ensure continuous evaluation of surface and underground workstations at mines. For this purpose, AMCU calls upon mining houses to call an urgent Coronavirus Summit, as a forum to gauge and bolster the state of preparedness for Covid-19 in the mining sector.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is saddened by another TWO fatalities at Harmony Gold’s Free State operations and ONE at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Bambanani Shaft. The Union has been consistently calling for amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act. But yet again we see another breadwinner killed and yet mining bosses collect their bonuses. Where is the justice?
As the new year opens, Harmony Gold has two fatalities on their hands. In the early hours of Saturday, 11 January 2020, a locomotive driver was unfortunately fatally injured in a mud rush incident, whilst working on night shift.
Reportedly, the worker went to inspect the box chute, which conveys ore into locomotive carriers, and for some reason yet unknown the box opened and overwhelmed him with collected ore, killing him. The AMCU comrade was from Lesotho and he leaves behind a wife and four children.
On Tuesday, 13 January 2020, another mine worker was found dead underground at Phakisa mine, after he was absent from the end of night shift. We await the conclusion of the investigation.
On Friday, 17 January 2020, we received a report of another fatality at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Bambanani Shaft at their Kroondal operations, near Rustenberg. A Rock Drill Operator (RDO) was tragically killed in a fall of ground incident. He was a Mozambican national. Investigations are underway.
This is a tragic start to 2020 and indeed for Harmony Gold, which led the fatalities in 2019 with ten workers killed, overtaking Sibanye-Stillwater and Village Main Reef. The last fatality at Harmony Gold was on 17 December 2019 at their Kusasalethu operations. Will Harmony Gold become the leader in 2020? Will Sibanye-Stillwater jockey for position?
These fatalities show a lack of commitment by senior management towards improving safety at these mines. The employer has the legal duty of continuously monitoring compliance at each mine, and Harmony Gold and Sibanye-Stillwater are again failing in that obligation. What are the Board of Directors doing but raking in profits at the expense of African workers?
Where is the government’s intervention? When will perpetrators of such heinous acts be brought to justice? Are workers just here to make bosses rich, easily replaced if they become sick or injured? Easily replaced if they are killed? No! As AMCU we say no. Where is the justice? Employers must be held to account by a Mine Health and Safety Act with teeth and a government which works to protect people, not profits.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is saddened and dismayed by yet another fatality at Village Main Reef’s (VMR) Tau Lekoa mine in the North West. The Union has been consistently calling for amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act. But yet again we see another breadwinner killed. When will we see justice?
Yesterday, 30 January 2020, another mine worker was killed in a fall of ground (FOG) event, reportedly due seismicity, at VMR’s Tau Lekoa mine in Orkney, North West Province. We await the investigation and further details.
On 25 January 2020, one day after the Minister of the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE), Hon. Gwede Mantashe, announced the 2019 mining health and safety performance figures, another fatality occurred at the very same mine. At approximately 13h54 a seismic event of approximately 2.4ML occurred, trapping one mine worker. Unfortunately, by the time the rescue team reached the worker, he was already deceased. Investigations are underway and further details are yet unclear.
Just last month, on 7 December 2019, at the very same mine, four (4) workers were also fatally injured in an FOG event due to seismicity.
So far this brings the total number of mine workers killed for 2020 to seven (7), including one worker found dead at Harmony Gold’s Phakisa mine on 13 January 2020, and the year is yet young.
Minister Mantashe and the DMRE team has just last week announced 2019 as the lowest year on record for fatalities in the mining sector. Will 2020 bring about a regression? All employees must be protected!
We implore the government for stricter punishment of any and all employers who kill workers they are legislated to protect. We seek immediate intervention and swift justice! Employers must be held to account by a Mine Health and Safety Act with teeth and a government which works to protect people, not profits.