File image: Reuters

JOHANNESBURG - The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Wednesday it blamed Harmony Gold's management for the death of two mineworkers at its Joel Mine near Theunissen in the Free State.

According to reports, two male workers aged 51 and 58 were fatally injured during a seismic event at Level 137 of Joel Mine near Welkom on Tuesday morning. 

The mine comprises two shafts, and mining is conducted at a depth of 1,452 metres.

The seismic event took place at 8:54am and triggered a fall of ground.  Their bodies were recovered at around 11am. The workers are said to have been busy investigating a seal fissure which led to water leaking from the footwall. 

Their death brings the total number of mineworker fatalities to 22 since January 1, 2018. This week, two other mineworkers also died, one at Sibanye-Stillwater's Khuseleka operations near Rustenburg, and the other one at De Beers' Venetia mine near Musina. 

In a statement, Amcu said that it was concerned by the causes of the accident, and indications that mine management might have been aware of possible dangers in the area involved.

"Amcu has received reports that seem to indicate negligence on the part of mine management. We are told that the specific area was not mined for around twenty years and that it was closed due to geological issues," it said. 

"Amcu is perturbed that management did not follow the standard start-up procedure, which would include a risk assessment and specifically an investigation of geological conditions."

The workers' union said that it also learned that management instructed employees to go underground on Wednesday morning. But Harmony Gold's spokesperson, Sihle Maake was not immediately available and was yet to respond to this allegation. 

The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) is reported to have issued an instruction to stop mining operations in terms of section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA). 

The instruction compels the mine to first ensure that everything is safe again, before workers are permitted to enter the affected areas.

 African News Agency/ANA