Sibanye-Stillwater mine death hammers share, causes uproar
Investigations into fatalities at Sibanye mines are ongoing and will be submitted to Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe
Another death at a Sibanye-Stillwater mine has seen the company’s share price plummet 10% on Tuesday and evoked strong reactions from Parliament and trade unions.
Parliament’s mineral resources committee chairman, Sahlulele Luzipo, said it was “high time the company is placed under curatorship”. He went further and suggested that the miner’s operating licence should be withdrawn.
Trade unions demanded amendment of legislation to allow for personal liability by executives for safety failures.
The fatality at the Khomanani mine on Tuesday morning brought the death toll on company premises to 21 since February. This represented almost half of the 45 fatalities in the industry over this period.
But while expressing concern on the fatality rates, the unions pushed back at suspending the operating licence, saying many families relied on the mines for survival.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said he was unclear how curatorship would work. Health and safety chairman for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Duncan Luvuno said such a move should be a last resort.
Both NUM and Amcu want the Mine Health and Safety Act amended so mining executives can be prosecuted in their personal capacity and even jailed.
Additionally, Mathunjwa said section 23 of the act, which allows for workers to leave a dangerous workplace, should be amended to be more specific to ensure workers can do so without fear of suspension or other action.
While the details of the fatal accident are still being determined, the company on Monday said the dead worker was caught in the path of a scraper.
Sibanye-Stillwater spokesman James Wellsted explained that a scraper was a large “bucket” used to move broken ore from one position to another. It moves in the confines of a gully, a specially excavated scraper path, Wellsted said.
The Department of Mineral Resources was concerned at the fatalities at the company, spokeswoman Ayanda Shezi said. “Investigators are on site and commenced [their] investigations ” she said. Investigations into the other fatalities at Sibanye-Stillwater mines were ongoing and on completion a report would be submitted to Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe.
Paul Mardon, deputy general secretary for health and safety at Solidarity, said the union was very concerned about health and safety at the mines.
“Something big is definitely wrong,” he said.
A thorough investigation was required. “They have the oldest mines, and the deepest. They are the biggest in the industry, so of course they would have the most fatalities, but to be responsible for nearly half in SA for this year, that is out of proportion to their size,” he said.
“There is no simple answer,” said Luvuno. “This requires thorough introspection from all of us mining bosses and unions to find where the problem is.”
Here’s what we know so far about the incidents that happened this year.