Source: Daily Maverick (Photo, Felix Ndlangamandla)

The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is shocked and saddened by the tragedy at Implats, that took lives of mineworkers and injured dozens. SAFTU lays the fault of this tragedy nowhere but at the doorstep of Implats and its insatiable lust for profiteering.

It is reported that a tragic accident happened at Impala Platinum (Implats) mine’s 11 Shaft operation in Rustenburg, North West Province, where 11 mineworkers have been killed and a further 75 injured, on Monday, 27 November 2023. This is the company’s worst single-incident fatality since 1974 when due to a tailings dam-related incident, 13 workers were killed at once.

According to the CEO, Nico Muller, a personnel conveyance was carrying employees to surface after their shift and due to some yet unknown fault, began to rapidly descend and get caught by the conveyance counterweight, rapidly coming to a sudden stop and subsequently killing employees in the process. The cause of the incident remains unknown at this stage, but SAFTU can only speculate at the likelihood of failed inspections, poor manufacturing, or lack of maintenance for such a preventable incident to occur.

The other injured workers have been admitted to hospital and all mineworkers are accounted for after yesterday’s shift. Mining at this operation have been halted and investigations are underway, reportedly. Nico Muller records the incident as “the darkest day” for Implats and the Minerals Council South Africa, of which Implats is a member, has recorded their “heartfelt condolences” to the families of the mineworkers. In 2022, mining fatalities stood at 49 workers killed, which is the lowest mining sector fatalities for South Africa on record. The year before, 2021, recorded 74 fatalities. Yet as of 24 November 2023, fatalities stood at 41, which given the tragic loss of these 11 mineworkers, now has increased to 52 mineworkers killed, already beyond last year’s figure.

Mines pioneered the first industrial revolution and had been existing before that. For an industry with such a lifespan, it is unacceptable that accidents happen as though it is the days of a hammer and chisel. The mine health and safety should have improved to zero injuries and fatalities. But the mantra that time is money, that guides capitalism’s drive to produce every second and minute as it seeks to produce more to win trade competition, makes them to not pay due diligence to safety measures, the results of which is the tragedies of this kind.

SAFTU cannot express enough the sorrow it feels for the families and comrades of the 11 mineworkers lost from this incident. Our thoughts are also with those injured. This incident was never supposed to happen.

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