File photo: Reuters.

JOHANNESBURG - The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) said on Thursday it was shocked and saddened by yet another fatality in a locomotive accident at Impala Platinum.

A locomotive operator working for contractor MMM Construction was killed and another worker injured in the incident at Impala's No.1 shaft in Rustenburg on Tuesday morning. An investigation was underway on Thursday morning. 

The accident brings to four the total number of fatalities at Implats operations so far this year, after a semi-skilled boilermaker slipped and fell in April, a team leader was fatally injured by a ventilation door in May and another worker died in a fall of ground-related incident in June.

"This is the third locomotive accident in as many months at this shaft, the last being fatal. Hence, both Impala and the contractor were aware of such, as each is reportable," Amcu said in a statement. 

"Amcu questions why interventions were not made on the previous incidents to avoid a fatal injury? It seems to be poor contractor management on the part of Impala, which evidently has failed to prevent a further railbound accident, now resulting in the death of one worker and injury of another."

The union called for greater accountability through tougher regulation of mine safety.

Implats spokesperson Johan Theron confirmed the death of Nelson Thipe, adding that his family, the department of mineral resources (DMR) and the union were informed of the incident as soon as possible. The family was being providing with counselling, as per standard policy.

"It looks like Mr Thipe's locomotive was traveling from the underground shaft tipping area, back towards the workings to collect another load of ore. Another fully loaded locomotive on route to the tipping seemingly failed to stop, against all standard safety protocol, at the demarcated place, before entering the tipping area," Theron said.

"Regrettably, this locomotive then collided with the rail carriage on which Mr Thipe was sitting, fatally injuring him in the collision. An independent third party investigation is currently in process under the supervision of the DMR to better understand the cause of the incident and appropriate remedial action."

Amcu reiterated its previous calls for amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act, and urged mining bosses to invest more of their companies' profits in safety systems and infrastructure.  

According to the DMR, provisional fatalities in the South African mining industry currently stand at 27, with injuries at 1,393 year-to-date.

Theron said while there had been a regression in safety performance recently at the Implats' No.1 shaft, it followed an extended period of unprecedented safety performance improvement as the operation achieved its best ever safety performance.

"To this end, we remain committed to work with all stakeholders to arrest the recent regression to once again lead the industry in safety performance," he said.

African News Agency (ANA)