Mines should not be deathtraps - Motsepe

2017-09-01 22:23
Patrice Motsepe. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

Patrice Motsepe. (Nation Nyoka, News24)

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WATCH: 'We take full responsibility for deceased Kusasalethu miners' - Motsepe

2017-09-01 16:49

Harmony Gold Non-Executive Chairman, Patrice Motsepe, said the mining company takes full responsibility for the deaths of five Kusasalethu miners, regardless of investigation findings. Watch. WATCH

Carletonville - The mining industry is built on the backs of poor workers, who should feel as though coming to work is a death trap, the chairperson of Harmony Goldmines Patrice Motsepe says.

Speaking at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine in the gold-mining town of Carletonville on Friday, Motsepe said companies were responsible for making sure that the environment in which mine workers operated was safe.

"The obligation of creating a safe environment never stops. Workers shouldn't come to the mines to lose their lives. That’s unacceptable. We are responsible and accountable," he said.

Five mine workers at the mine last week Friday when seismic activity measuring 1.2 Magnitude occurred about 3 100 metres below the surface around 10:30.

Harmony Gold Chief Executive Officer, Peter Steenkamp said that the section in which the accident took place had received a low-risk rating for seismic activity before they started working there.

Read: 'We heard their cries' - Kusasalethu miner relives tremor that left three miners dead

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union’s Sanele Miyeza challenged Motsepe and Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane to making sure that those responsible were indeed held accountable.

Accountability was essential as workers, shift bosses and miners were often used as scapegoats and that senior mining executives were hardly ever held accountable themselves.

"We want to see this happening, if this is not done, then this inquiry serves no purpose at all and these [deaths] will continue to take place," he said.

Miyeza said people could continue to be buried for preventable accidents. 

Do more

He added that offering a job to the deceased’s next of kin was also an impersonal act by the companies.

"It does nothing but to create an impression that people are a commodity that can be replaced, that can be dispensed with, that should not be the attitude, these are human beings," he said.

Motsepe added that perhaps companies should do more than just providing a job to a family member of a deceased worker who had lost their life.

"We should look into educating the youngest at the time, all the way until tertiary," Motsepe said.

Motsepe said investors were questioning whether this could be signalling the end of deep-level mining in the country. He said they were questioning whether to exit the industry or stay on and provide jobs despite the looming shut down of the mine in five years.

Zwane asked that accident be seen as a turning point for safety at mines across the country. He also believes that the mining industry could become one of the safest only if there was co-operation between mines, unions and workers.

The mine had run for 16 months without any fatalities, however, since the accident, all operations have been halted until the department concludes its investigation.

Take years

Miyeza challenged Zwane to be more expedient in finalising investigations and inquiries into the deaths of workers at mines.

He said Lily Mine in Barberton was still investigating a collapse which saw three miners losing their lives after being trapped in a shaft in February 2016.

Just a month ago, three other had miners lost their lives in a similar seismic incident at a neighbouring mine, he said.

Some inquiries took years to conclude, something which could not happen in the face of the concerning number of lives lost.

"By the time the inquiry sits, some of the witnesses can scarcely even remember what had transpired, some of the witnesses have left employment and cannot be found, and this does not assist the process," Miyeza said.

A memorial for the five miners will take place on Monday at 10:00 on the sports grounds of the mine.

Read more on:    harmony gold  |  patrice motsepe  |  mining

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