The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Sunday said it would engage the management of Sibanye-Stillwater following the recent deadly incidents at its mines which have pushed the national toll to 31 fatalities so far this year.
“We have noted the increasingly poor safety record at the mines, particularly at Sibanye,” said NUM Health and Safety Secretary Eric Gcilitshana.
“As the union we will be calling for discussions with the mine to raise our concerns. There have been far too many fatalities at Sibanye mines, notably this year alone,” said Gcilitshana.
Gcilitshana said the Thursday incident caused by a seismic event at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Masakhane mine, which claimed the lives of 7 workers had raised the number of fatalities so far this year to 31.
A total of 13 mineworkers were initially trapped underground, others are still being treated in hospital.
“The figure is much higher compared to the same period last year, where we had 28 deaths,” said Gcilitshana adding that fatalities often occurred at gold and platinum mines.
The incident followed the killing of two mineworkers at Sibanye’s Kloof mine in February after a fall-of-ground.
Early this year, 955 miners were temporarily trapped at another Sibanye-Stillwater mine in Welkom, after an electric cable outage during a storm. All the workers were safely rescued.
Trade union Solidarity has also expressed “grave concern” about safety in South African mines in the wake of the Sibanye tragedy.
“Solidarity reminds employees of their legal right to withdraw from unsafe working conditions, and urges them to do so should it be necessary,” the union said in a statement.
Safety levels are a key concern in South Africa deep-level mines, with unions often calling on mining houses to do more to safeguard the lives of workers.
In November 2017, the Chamber of Mines of South Africa reported that there had been 76 deaths in mines, an increase from 73 cases reported in 2016.
Although the statistics are significantly high, the chamber has maintained that underground deaths have reduced compared to pre-1994 levels.
Following the last week’s deaths at Sibanye, the organisations said in a statement it had “noted with concern the increase in the number of rock bursts related to seismic activity, while the number of rockfalls, which is typically the main cause of falls-of-ground, decreased.”
“For the first time in many years, the industry saw a deterioration in its efforts at continuous improvement in its safety performance, as measured by the number of accident fatalities,” wrote Chamber of Mines of South Africa CEO, Roger Baxter, in the March Quarterly Update.