The South African Federation of Trade Unions is deeply concerned and saddened at the tragedy at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Masakhane Shaft at the Driefontein mine in Westonaria.
13 mine workers were trapped underground after a seismic incident in the shaft. Six have been rescued, four have died and three are still trapped underground, two of whom are reported to be fatally injured.
SAFTU sends its condolences to the family, friends and fellow workers of the deceased and our best wishes to those injured for a full and speedy recovery. There must also be no delay in bringing up those still trapped.
The Departments of Mineral Resources and Labour must immediately conduct an investigation into the accident and take action to prevent any further such tragedies. This latest tragedy was caused by a seismic shift, but these are a hazard that can be expected in deep mines and research must be done to find ways of managing their impact on those working underground so that no more lives are lost.
It is of particular concern that Sibanye-Stillwater has a bad record on mine safety. It also owns the Beatrix mine where, on 31 January 2018, 955 mine workers were trapped underground for more than 24 hours, following a collapse of both the primary and secondary Eskom powerlines supplying electricity to the mine. The collapse had caused a power surge and outage at all three shafts at the Beatrix operations.
The death toll in South Africa’s mines this year has now risen to 26. More must be done to bring this figure down. Workers’ lives must be the top priority, and not maximizing profits.