Johannesburg - South Africa has accused Sibanye Gold [JSE:SGL] and AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG] the country’s two biggest gold producers, of putting workers’ lives at risk in an ongoing dispute over safety stoppages.
Public comments from both companies suggest that they are refusing to comply with the country’s mining laws, the Department of Mineral Resources said in an emailed statement dated Wednesday.
The two miners have criticised government inspectors for being too heavy-handed in temporarily closing mines for safety breaches, while the Department of Mineral Resources argues the companies are unwilling to follow the law.
AngloGold won a court ruling in October that blocked one such closure notice at its Kopanang mine, and Sibanye is suing Mines Minister Mosebenzi Zwane and other officials for compensation after its Kroondal platinum mine was closed.
“If companies cannot mine safely, they should not be mining at all, and should allow other potential holders,” Zwane said in the statement. “It is unacceptable that these companies are choosing to cheapen the lives of mineworkers in this manner.”
South Africa had 73 mining fatalities in 2016, a record low and a ninth consecutive year of declines. The country’s gold and platinum mines are the world’s deepest and among the most dangerous.