Susan Shabangu to investigate what led to Harmony miners’ deaths

2014-02-06 12:26

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Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu has promised to get to the bottom of the accident that saw eight miners lose their lives at Harmony’s Doornkop mine outside Soweto.

Mine authorities said the accident was caused by seismic activity and a fire.

Addressing a media conference at the mine, Shabangu said: “The investigation will reveal what led to the seismic activity, the fire and the ultimate tragedy. Was the law properly followed, what happened underground, was the alarm or siren triggered and where were the workers at that time? We will do a thorough investigation as required by the law. As a department, we will follow due process.”

The investigation, Shabangu said, would not take long. However, she said the investigation would be followed by a formal inquiry, which could last up to a year.

“The investigation will lead to an inquiry, which will be a lengthy process with legal implications for all involved.”

She said it was sad that the accident happened in the same week South Africa was hosting the Mining Indaba in Cape Town. The Indaba wraps up its business today.

“We want to give the world positive news, not only about investment opportunities but also safety issues. It’s a tragic day for South Africa.”

Over the past five years the industry had made great strides to improve the safety of mines, she said, adding that what happened at Doornkop was a sizable setback.

Businessman Patrice Motsepe, who is the chair of Harmony Gold, was also present at the press conference. He agreed with Shabangu that much had been done over the past five years to improve safety in the industry.

“The industry has made huge progress. But we must admit that we haven’t had a good reputation over many years. The death of one single worker is not acceptable.

“We should never be seen as pursuing profits over people. It’s a serious and a fundamental issue. What will the public think of us? What will the workers and investors think of us?”

Mine authorities said four miners who were rescued to safety have been hospitalised.

Piet Matosa, deputy president of the National Union of Mineworkers, said the union was shocked by the accident.

“We are part of the process and we will participate in the investigation. We are impressed that the mine is taking full responsibility. We hope the outcome of the investigation will help prevent similar occurrences.”

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