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JOHANNESBURG - Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe has shrugged off calls for the government to arrest mine bosses for fatalities as the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) reported there were fewer employees who had died across the country’s mines last year.

The DMR on Friday reported that fatalities had fallen 10percent in 2018 to 81 from 90 in 2017 and 73 in 2016, when the industry recorded the lowest fatalities. The department said so far this year there had been five fatalities compared with 14 during the same period in 2018 as the government, labour and business strengthened their partnership.

Mantashe said mine fatalities should never be handled with emotions. “If we do that, we will set the industry alight. What is important is that when there are fatalities we must deal with them,” he said, adding that the fatalities had to be analysed and understood.

“Criminal charges are necessary, but it cannot be a formula for dealing with mine accidents. My own view is that where a manager is negligent, that manager must be charged. It cannot be that every time there is a death there is an arrest. There will be nobody left to run the industry,” said Mantashe.

Earlier on Friday, Joseph Mathunjwa, the president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), called on Mantashe to work with the union in amending the Mine Health and Safety Act.

“Every mine that kills a worker - their chief executive must be put behind bars. They must be prosecuted. They (companies) take short cuts on the Mine Health and Safety Act. Sibanye-Stillwater has killed 21 breadwinners, and the government has not raised a finger,” said Mathunjwa.

The DMR said the platinum sector had recorded a 60percent improvement in fatalities to 12 from 29 in 2017. Fatalities in the gold sector had remained the same at 40 in 2018.

David Msiza, South Africa’s Chief Inspector of Mines, on Friday said the major contributor to fatalities was the 31 falls of ground incidents, which were induced by seismicity.

Msiza said the department had established a task team to combat seismic and gravity-induced fall-of-ground accidents, which were prevalent in the gold industry.

BUSINESS REPORT