Johannesburg – The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in Mpumalanga was denied entry to the Lily Mine in Barberton where three workers were still trapped after a crown pillar collapsed, the trade union federation said on Monday.
Cosatu provincial secretary Fidel Mlombo said Cosatu officials went to the mine when the incident happened on Friday before the morning shift when they were told only the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) was allowed into the premises.
“What deepens Cosatu’s anger is that despite the appeal by the delegation that they were joining the Minister of Minerals and Energy [Mosebenzi Zwane] delegation which was already inside the mine, the employer blatantly refused and told the delegation that the only union allowed to enter the mine is their union AMCU,” Mlombo said.
“This sheer arrogance against Cosatu by employers confirms our long-held view that AMCU leaders are embedded in the pockets of the employers.”
The management at the mine reported on Monday that rescue teams had established audio communication with the trapped miners, raising hope that the three men were still alive.
Amcu, a rival of Cosatu’s National Union of Mineworkers, was founded by its president Joseph Mathunjwa in Witbank, Mpumalanga, and was registered in 2002. Mathunjwa was NUM leader at BHP Billiton mine when he was expelled from NUM after leading an illegal strike in 1999, which saw him and several other NUM members forming Amcu.
The Lily mine accident saw at least 90 workers trapped after the crown pillar collapsed. Most of the miners were rescued that day.
On Monday, Zwane told delegates at the Investing in African Mining Indaba underway in Cape Town, that the mine would be closed until rescue efforts were completed and everything normalised at the gold mine. He spent several hours in talks with managers of the mine on Friday.
“We agreed with the management of Lily Mine that, under these conditions, we have to close down the mine until the situation is normalised, hence we issued them with Section 54.
“We went onsite ourselves, did preliminary investigations and saw for ourselves what the situation was like. This is a great example of how Section 54 should be issued, instead of issuing it while sitting in Pretoria,” Zwane said.
Mlombo said Cosatu remained firm in defending workers’ rights, and along with well-wishers worldwide, wished the rescue team success in rescuing the three workers trapped underground.