Mine deaths must not happen: Oliphant

By Drum Digital
10 July 2012

An accident that killed five miners at Goldfield's Driefontein mine should not have happened, deputy mineral resources minister Godfrey Oliphant said on Tuesday.

"This accident, amongst others, is one accident that was not supposed to have happened," Oliphant said at a memorial service for the five workers on the West Rand.

"We expect heads to roll if any negligence has been found on the part of any person."

The five miners died in the number four shaft (Ya-Rona) after a fire broke out in the mine on June 30. Fourteen miners were hospitalised. An investigation into the cause of the accident was underway.

Oliphant said ten Gold Field workers had lost their lives this year under the company's watch, with its Driefontein mine being the primary contributor.

"Now is the time that mine executives take responsibility for what is happening in their organisations, in respect of health and safety of mine workers."

The mining industry recorded its lowest number of deaths ever in April, but the recent accident was a serious regression regarding miner safety and health, he said.

Overall, 63 mine deaths had been recorded across the sector this year.

Gold mines accounted for 27 deaths, platinum mines 21, coal mines seven, and other mining operations eight.

Oliphant said it was regrettable that most deaths were in gold and platinum mines, since it was expected such mines would have proper health and safety measures in place.

"The question... in my mind is whether the mining industry is genuinely committed, beyond various statements that they have been made, [to] improving health and safety of mine workers.

"In a country where a better life for all has been promised, we cannot continue robbing family members of their loved ones."

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