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‘Perplexing’ hike in number of deaths at Sibanye-Stillwater as the mine reported four employees killed in two separate incidents on Friday

Chief executive Neal Froneman says the incidents had happened despite the group’s extraordinary efforts this year. File photo: Bloomberg.

Chief executive Neal Froneman says the incidents had happened despite the group’s extraordinary efforts this year. File photo: Bloomberg.

Published Dec 6, 2021


Sibanye-Stillwater has reported a “perplexing” increase in the number of employees who have died on duty after four mineworkers were killed during two separate incidents on Friday. Sibanye said on Friday its safety record for 2021 had regressed and 18 employees had lost their lives in work-related incidents.

The fatalities at Sibanye are against the backdrop of deteriorating safety in mines and come days after Impala Platinum recovered the bodies of three mineworkers who were trapped in a mudslide at the Rustenburg operations.

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Sibanye said the first incident, an employee died at 2.30am on Friday after the ground caved in at the Rustenburg operations. In the second incident at around 10am on Friday three employees died following a tragic trackless mobile machinery incident at the gold Beatrix operations.

Chief executive Neal Froneman said the incidents had happened despite the group’s extraordinary efforts this year.

“The number of fatal incidents we have experienced is of grave concern for management and the board of Sibanye-Stillwater. We are appalled by the loss of our employees’ lives at our mines over the past year. While we cannot rectify the harm that has occurred, we will continue to support the families as best we can in their grief,” Froneman said.

The group, which operates underground gold mines and platinum operations, said the incident at Beatrix in particular, followed an incident earlier this week, where another colleague lost his life in a blasting incident.

“Any loss of life is unacceptable and all efforts are being focussed on addressing this perplexing increase in fatal safety incidents,” said the group.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), the biggest trade union in South Africa’s platinum belt, on Friday called for Froneman to quit due to the rising number of fatalities.

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Amcu general secretary Jeffery Mphahlele, said: “As Amcu’s national leadership, we now call on the chief executive (of Sibanye-Stillwater) to admit that he has failed to ensure the safety of workers at his mines, and for him to resign with immediate effect,” said Mphahlele.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa in 2019 called for Froneman to resign for there to be sustainability and investor confidence in the mining sector.

“We say that he must resign immediately to stop this senseless killing of black breadwinners,” he said. Mphahlele said Amcu was also calling for the disbandment of the Sibanye board with immediate effect, because of failure to perform their fiduciary duties to ensure ethical business conduct within the socio-economic realities of South Africa.

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“That is four breadwinners in one day. It must be some kind of record,” Mphahlele said.

Mphahlele said the Sibanye board had refused the union’s request for an urgent meeting to address the climbing fatalities. He also blamed the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) for ignoring its letters about the issue of record deaths in the mining sector.

The mining industry convened a Minesafe Conference last month where Minerals Council president Nolitha Fakude conceded the industry’s goal of eliminating fatalities due to mine accidents had slipped.

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Fakude said the Covid-19 pandemic had an impact on safety and on occupational and public health performance outcomes.

“It has taken its toll on both the physical and the mental health of many of us. Mining needs to be carried out by a workforce in good health to be done optimally and safely. But we cannot allow the pandemic to be seen as an excuse for the deteriorating safety outcomes,” she said.

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