Yesterday’s death of yet another Sibanye-Stillwater miner near Pretoria, only 15 days after five other miners died, prompted a call from the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources to suspend the company’s operating licence.
It was high time the company was placed under curatorship, said committee chair Sahlulele Luzipo.
“In the interim, it will be best for the company to have someone competent to oversee its daily operations, to take decisions that will be in the best interest of the wellbeing of workers,” Luzipo said.
Sibanye-Stillwater has had 20 miners die on its watch this year, with yesterday’s death of the 35-year-old miner at about 3.20am in the Khomanani mine at Sibanye’s Driefontein operation making the total 21, just days before a second safety summit expected to be held at the mine on Friday.
The other five miners died at Sibanye’s Kloof Ikamva mine
Mine spokesperson James Wellsted said the miner had been caught by a scraper when he entered its path.
Exactly what he was doing there, still had to be determined, Wellsted told The Citizen.
“Essentially, we blast the face to obtain the ore, and the scraper then clears the face of quite big boulders and rock material,” Wellsted said.
“The guys make sure the hanging roof is supported so they can work there. The scraper is then put in – it’s like a big bucket – on a rope or wire operated by winch. It is then sent up the stope and then dragged down again which then drags all the ore to a grid to an allpass from where it falls eventually into trains on the level below.”
Wellsted explained it was a common process used in gold and platinum mines across South Africa to remove blasted rock from the face of the shaft.
“Sometimes it is dragged into a gully which is on the side of the face from where we can scrape towards the allpass, which is what was used in this instance. It’s quite heavy, made of steel, and what happened was the employee entered the gully and was hit by the scraper,” said Wellsted.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) yesterday called the spate of mining deaths “a crime against humanity.”
“Even worse, it is a crime against the most vulnerable people in our society – those who have to toil daily for low wages so that mining bosses can maximise their profits and keep shareholders satisfied,” the union said in a statement.