Prioritise the living over the dead, union tells Lily Mine bosses

2016-04-25 11:40

Barberton - A trade union representing workers at the collapsed Lily Mine in Mpumalanga has accused the company’s management of prioritising dead workers over those that are still alive.

Solidarity’s general secretary, Gideon du Plessis, told a News24 correspondent that 900 workers at the mine had been told that their salaries would not be paid this month because financial resources were focused on the recovery of three workers who went missing when the mine collapsed in February this year.

"Although the attention is to recover the bodies of the three missing workers, the priority should be to give more than 900 workers and contractors’ job security. They might all lose their income and they are the ones looking into the eyes of needy family members," he said.

Du Plessis said each of the 900 mineworkers, who are based in Louisville near Barberton, were caring for between six and 10 people who depended on their salaries every single month.

On Thursday last week, the trade union visited the mine to attend business rescue discussions with other trade unions, creditors and workers.

There has not been any success so far in finding any funding for the mine.

The last time Lily Mine produced gold was early on Friday, February 5, at 8am. The new shift was just taking over production when a massive cave-in occurred.

"At the moment there is no working security for contractors, miners or other workers. Six hundred and fifty permanent jobs, as well as 250 jobs of contractors are on the line and it should be a priority for the government and the Independent Development Corporation (IDC) to find finance to save these jobs. Most of the people that could find other employment have left already," said du Plessis.

He also added that everybody at Lily mine understood that the three bodies should be recovered.

"We all need to say a proper and fitting goodbye to Pretty Mabuza, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi, in order to find closure," he said.

Solidarity believed that the company should come up with funding for three projects as a matter of urgency.

They included getting funding for expanding gold mining production at the neighbouring Barbrook Mine, which forms part of the same company. This was expected to create 200 jobs.

Another form of funding would be to sink another shaft at Lily Mine, so as to locate the container in which the three missing workers were at the time of the disaster. This was also expected to create another 200 jobs.

The last batch of funding was expected to restart the production at Lily Mine, in the areas where the mining has been declared safe. This was expected to create 250 jobs.

State-appointed business rescue practitioner at the mine, Rob Devereux, told Lily Mine workers at a mass meeting on Thursday that they had only just got access to the banking accounts of Vantage Goldfields.

Du Plessis confirmed that the practitioner assured Solidarity that it was his priority to find money to ensure that staff members at head office got their salaries next week. This would include staff members for Lily Mine, as well as Barbrook mineworkers.

The trade union had requested Devereux to supply workers with a letter that they could take to the bank, confirming that the mine was in business rescue.

Solidarity was also putting pressure on mine management and security that they start immediately with the investigation into the collapse of the crown pillar.

"We don’t want gold production to be stalled further while the recovery of the bodies continues," said Du Plessis.

No one in the Lily Mine management would comment on the matter. 

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