Patrice Motsepe. Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Patrice Motsepe. Picture: MARTIN RHODES

A total of 45 miners have died in the country this year alone. “This year alone I’ve visited more than 45 families‚” said Mineral Resources Minister, Mosebenzi Zwane on Friday.

He was speaking at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine‚ where five miners lost their lives after a seismic fall last week: “Let it be a turning point when it comes to the issue of safety.”

The mine’s chairperson Patrice Motsepe, CEO Peter Steenkamp‚ and representatives of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers also attended the press conference.

Zwane said SA remained committed to finding safe ways to mine‚ adding that it was one of the countries with the fewest mining-related deaths in comparison to other mining giants. The tragedy at Kusasalethu was the first in the country in 16 months. Steenkamp said that in the last financial year‚ five fatalities were reported at Harmony Gold and that a probe would be conducted into the latest incident.

The AMCU’s Sanele Miyeza called on officials to expedite the process‚ saying delays usually resulted in witnesses leaving the mine before the investigations were concluded. He said it was a huge cause of concern that eight miners had died in the last month — the other three had worked at another mine.

High-ranking officials needed to take accountability‚ Miyeza said: “More often than not it’s workers‚ shift bosses and miners that get used as scapegoats after these incidents. We hardly see any seniors ever being held accountable.”

Harmony’s Motsepe said, “Workers should not come to the mines to lose their lives. That is unacceptable,” and noted that union leaders had suggested a change in the way families were compensated for losing their breadwinners‚ which the company would look in to.

“We should not just, as is the culture‚ replace or provide a job to the family because a worker has lost his life,” Motsepe said. “We should do much‚ much more and the suggestion from the leaders is that we educate the youngest [child of the deceased mineworker] at the time up to tertiary level.” Miyeza agreed: “[Simply giving employment to the next of kin] does nothing but create the impression that people are a commodity that can be replaced or dispensed with.”

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