Sibanye-Stillwater must prioritise safety - Mantashe

2018-05-04 15:15
Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Supplied)

Minister Gwede Mantashe. (Supplied)

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The Sibanye-Stillwater mining company has been one of the main contributors to increased fatalities in the gold sector this year, which suggests that it needs to pay more attention to safety, Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said on Friday.

He said the lives of workers should be protected above the "insistence of chasing production".

The company confirmed on Friday morning that four of the seven mine workers who were trapped, after an earthquake hit the Masakhane gold mine west of Johannesburg, had died. 

READ: Mine operations stop as rescuers race to find survivors at Sibanye-Stillwater mine

Mine spokesperson James Wellsted said five other mine workers were admitted to hospital and were in stable conditions.

He added that six other mine workers were still trapped underground.

"We have located three of the six workers, but the other three are still unaccounted for."

Operations at the Masakhane shaft have been suspended.

The mineral resource department's health and safety inspectors were on site.

On Thursday, the mine said a seismic event, which occurred at about 13:30, caused a fall of ground in an operating stope.

READ: 4 dead, 6 miners trapped underground at Sibanye Mine

The National Union of Mineworkers' health and safety deputy secretary in Carletonville, Sikelala Dlamini, believed there was no hope that the remaining workers would be found alive.

"Looking at the condition of the situation where they are situated, there is still a heavy rock fall which makes it difficult for the rescue teams to find them," Dlamini told News24 at the offices of the mine, not too far from the shaft.

He said the mine needed to put a seismic system in place to detect events before they occurred, so workers could be withdrawn in time. 

Sibanye-Stillwater's website stated that the safety, health and well-being of its employees was paramount.

It said an action plan was being designed for gold operations, based on six areas, namely falls of ground, rail-bound equipment, slip and fall, material handling, winches and rigging, and eye injuries.

Mantashe extended his condolences to the families and friends of the affected workers.

Trade union Solidarity also expressed its condolences and said its thoughts were with the families of the missing miners.

"It is a tragic incident and we share in the families' sorrow. We trust that those who are still missing would soon be found unharmed," said Connie Prinsloo, Solidarity's deputy general secretary for the mining industry.

Earlier this year, 955 miners were trapped following an electric cable outage at the Sibanye Gold mine in Welkom.

A week later at the Kloof Ikamva shaft, two mine workers were found dead after a fall of ground caused by a seismic event.

The following week, a mineworker died at the Sibanye-Stillwater's Masakhane shaft when a box of gold ore crushed him to death.

According to the department, seismic events accounted for around 30% of mining fatalities in 2017.

As a result, Mantashe had asked a team of departmental and industry officials, along with rock engineers and seismicity experts to investigate these events urgently so the industry could better anticipate and deal with them.

In response to the safety concerns raised, Wellsted said they had six deaths last quarter - four in the gold sector and two in Platinum group metals

"This follows a period last year where we went for over a quarter into January without any incidents at all. So, it is concerning for us. We are trying again to elevate safety across the organisation so that we get back to the leading performance we had before."

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Read more on:    sibanye  |  gwede mantashe  |  accidents  |  mining

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