Cosatu yesterday said that Ramaphosa’s administration needed to amend the act to hold companies and directors personally responsible for mine deaths in South Africa.
Spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said mining companies and directors had to be held personally responsible for deaths at their mines. “The selfishness, greed and exploitative attitudes of the mining firms can only be stopped by a strong and decisive government,” Pamla said. “They have made it very clear that they do not value the lives of black workers and black people in general.”
Sunday’s deaths at Phalaborwa took reported fatalities at South African mines to 47 this year. In May, 7 mineworkers were killed at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Driefontein gold mine near Carletonville, following a seismic event, and 5 more succumbed to gas and heat exposure last month at Kloof Ikamva, bringing total deaths at the company's operations to 21 this year.
Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe described the Phalaborwa deaths as unfortunate.
Mantashe called on companies to prioritise safety, adding that his department would investigate the cause of the Phalaborwa incident.
“As a country, we have lost so many lives in this disaster,” Mantashe said. “These deaths add to an already high number of lost lives in the industry since the start of the year.”
Mining is one of the key sectors in the economy, contributing nearly 10percent to the gross domestic product.
However, South Africa also has eight of the 10 deepest mines in the world with most running 3km deep.
Tony Healy, a labour consultant at Tony Healy and Associates, said mining, by its nature, was a dangerous activity, as workers contended with geological factors such as tectonic shifts and acts of God, adding: “The deeper the mine, the more dangerous it becomes.”
“What’s the alternative? Live with the risk and preserve employment or close the shaft and lose jobs. Neither are palatable. The risk can never be removed. There will always be risk.”
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) general secretary David Sipunzi accused mining companies of chasing profits at the expense of health and safety.
Sipunzi said other countries in the world had managed to bring down fatalities in mining, because they had prioritised the health and safety of their workers.
“I want to believe that they invest a lot in mine health and safety programmes,” he said. “They know here that even if they can kill 10 mineworkers, there won't be any repercussions.”
- BUSINESS REPORT