Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, right, at Harmony Gold's Doornkop mine, west of Johannesburg. Picture:  BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, right, at Harmony Gold's Doornkop mine, west of Johannesburg. Picture: BLOOMBERG/WALDO SWIEGERS

A total of 45 miners have died in the country this year alone‚ the Department of Mineral Resources revealed on Friday.

"This year alone I've visited more than 45 families‚" said Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.

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‚" Zwane said.

He said South Africa 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 latest tragedy was the first at Kusasalethu in 16 months.

The last two bodies were recovered on Thursday afternoon.

Chief executive Peter Steenkamp said that in the last financial year‚ five fatalities were reported at Harmony Gold. None of them happened as a result of seismic fall but concerned other spheres of operation.

He said a probe would be conducted into the latest incident.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union'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‚ he 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."

Motsepe said the company would look into educating the children of deceased miners‚ instead of simply giving employment to their next of kin.

Miyeza agreed. "The replacement by the next of kin does nothing but create the impression that people are a commodity that can be replaced or dispensed of."

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