AMCU leader Joseph Matunjwa speaking to the media on Friday. Picture: Timothy Bernard/ANA

Welkom - Workers affiliated to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) on Friday, vowed not to return underground at Beatrix gold mine in the Free State until safety issues were resolved and they get certain assurances from the mine and government.

Sibanye-Stillwater, the owner of the mine, confirmed that 955 workers were rescued unharmed at its Beatrix Shaft 3 in the early hours of Friday morning, after a power cut affected an elevator to bring them up following a severe storm on Wednesday night.

The company had already taken a decision to halt operations at the 2.2km depth mine until Monday to allow workers to recieve trauma counselling and recover fully.

However, Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa said that the union wanted to check whether Sibanye-Stillwater was complying with all regulations at Beatrix.

"We have put the demands as Amcu that there must not be any worker that reports to work on Monday. Their families are traumatised as much as the breadwinners are traumatised. Therefore they need to be given ample time for trauma counselling," Mathunjwa told journalists at the mine following a marathon meeting with Sibanye-Stillwater management and government."

Amcu president Joseph Marhunjwa outlines the demands that the union made to management of Sibanye-Stillwater owned Beatrix gold mine in Welkom, Free State, as 955 workers were rescued alive early on Friday after they were trapped underground on Wednesday night. Video: Siphelele Dludla/ANA

"We also requested this audit that the minister is taking about that they must do a full-scale audit at this mine. We demand new generators. If Sibanye can go and purchase a mine in the US, surely it can purchase new generators."

Mathunjwa said that the mine must have an emergency power supply for ventilation purposes in cases where workers are trapped underground, especially Beatrix mine because it's shallow and highly concentrated in methane gas.

Mathunjwa also confirmed that the union had demanded a R3 000 payment each for workers who were trapped underground as compensation and for counselling expenses.

Head of investor relations at Sibanye-Stillwater, James Wellsted, dismissed Amcu's R3 000 demand, saying that the mine was already providing workers with trauma counselling.

Meanwhile, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Friday said that governement would not issue a Section 54 work stoppage certificate to Beatrix gold mine in the Free State where hundreds of workers were trapped underground for two nights.

Minister Mosebenzi Zwane briefs the media following his marathon meeting with Sibanye-Stillwater at its Beatrix gold mine in the Free State, saying that government would not issue a section 54 work stoppage certificate against the mine, but will rather follow "due processes". Video: Siphelele Dludla/ANA

Briefing the media after a three-hour meeting with mine management and trade unions, Zwane said that government would rather ensure that due process was followed in investigating the incident before allowing operations to resume and for workers to return underground.

"We have agreed with everybody in the meeting that we are going to follow due processes to ensure the safety of everybody and allow the mine to operate once we have followed those processes. I do not want to speculate on the cause of this incident as a responsible leader," Zwane said. 

"We will be investigating issues of negligence, generator [faiIure], infrastructure and any other issue we deem fit. But until we have facts, we cannot issue a Section 54 because we know there was a storm in the area. We dont want to close these mines perpetually."

Zwane said the mine had taken a correct decision by not rescuing the workers through an alternative escape route because that route contained toxic gasses and "high methane levels". 

Zwane also said that the mine would remain temporarily closed until an investigation by the mineral resources' inspectorate is complete, which might take up a day or up to four days.

 African News Agency/ANA

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