Johannesburg – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Wednesday leveled serious allegations against the rival union, the Association of Construction and Mineworkers Union (Amcu), and Lily mine management following a failed attempt to visit the site of the mine collapse in Barberton on Tuesday.
NUM’s deputy president Joseph Montisetsi was allegedly denied access at Lily mine in Barberton on Tuesday, where he had planned to meet with the mine management before addressing affected families.
Montisetsi said he was “extremely worried that the rescue mission to find the three trapped workers was ongoing and taking forever”.
Three workers – Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda – became trapped underground on February 5 when the container they were working in at Vantage Goldfields Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga, fell into a sinkhole created by a collapsed crown pillar and was covered by huge rocks.
In a statement issued via its social media accounts on Wednesday, the NUM criticised mine management and blamed Amcu for the disaster.
“Lily Mine must know the visit by deputy president [Joseph Montisetsi] was not about bargaining rights or any other stunt, but more concern about trapped workers. This is not the first time mine management denied NUM access to the mine,” read the NUM statement.
It was also reported that a Cosatu delegation had been barred from Lily Mine a few days after the accident happened.
Amcu is the majority union at Lily mine, and the NUM is an affiliate of Cosatu.
NUM said its was surprised by Lily mine’s decision not to meet with them as the Tuesday meeting had been pre-arranged and confirmed.
The union added that they believed mine management was collaborating with Amcu as it wanted to derail the NUM’s legacy on health and safety issues.
“Management and Amcu collaborated to distort information about the fall of ground, the reason why NUM is denied access to the scene. We will not sit and fold our arms, we will start massive campaigns against Amcu and Lily Mine management. We demand answers from them,” the NUM said.
Amcu on Friday called on the Department of Mineral Resources to start a preliminary investigation into the mining disaster at Lily Mine despite assurances from the department that the investigation would begin once the container was recovered.
Spokespeople for Lily Mine and Amcu didn’t come away unscathed.
“It is stupid for the so-called [Lily Mine] spokesperson Coetzee Zietsman to say there is no need to engage NUM. This is a health and safety matter. It is also so stupid for the so-called Amcu spokesperson Manzini Zungu to behave as if Amcu cares about health and safety issues,” NUM said.
Both Zietsman and Manzini could not be reached for comment.
NUM said mine management must account for why there is no escape route and why management had no knowledge about the mine being riddled with sinkholes.
“We demand answers from them. Lily Mine and Amcu must take responsibility for (the) accident that resulted with Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda being trapped underground,” NUM said.