WELKOM – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) on Friday called for an infrastructure audit to be conducted on all South African mines in a bid to prevent underground accidents.
All 952 workers were rescued alive on Friday at Sibanye-Stillwater's Beatrix gold mine in Welkom, in the Free State. They had been trapped at Level 24 underground since Wednesday night after a severe storm cut power supply to the mine's Shaft 1.
This caused the elevator to not work and generators failed to kick in, leaving Sibanye-Stillwater with no option but to borrow generators from neighbouring Harmony Gold before Eskom could restore power.
The rescued miners were part of the 1 400 work force who were on night shift on Wednesday.
Speaking to African News Agency outside the mine on Friday morning, NUM national spokesperson Livhuwani Mmamburu said that the union was deeply worried about the rising number of safety incidents in the country's mines.
"This is a very worrying situation for us. As a union, we are calling for an infrastructure audit to be done on all South African mines to determine if they are prepared to handle incidents of power failures," Mmamburu said.
"There is no reason why a mine like Beatrix should not have emergency exits if the cage fails to work. The fact that generators also failed to kick in is worrying. That is why we are calling for an infrastructure audit to see why are all these incidents are happening."
Mmamburu referred to a 2007 incident at Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu mine in Carletonville where 3 500 workers trapped underground were rescued through an emergency exit, saying that the whole mining industry should take lessons from that incident and make such provisions.
Mmamburu criticised Sibanye-Stillwater for failing to inform the next of kin of trapped mineworkers about their plight and the efforts to rescue them, saying that the union had to step in and calm the situation.
On Friday morning some family members said the mine had "no empathy" and had not bothered to tell them about the health and situation regarding their loved ones when they were trapped underground .
"We are very worried about lack of communication from Sibanye. There was no reason why the company should keep such information from families. I can attest that Sibanye did not inform our members' next of kin, and we fielded a lot of calls from worried family members and relatives calling us wanting to know what was happening," Mmamburu said.
Meanwhile, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane was expected to arrive at Beatrix mine around noon, where he would receive a report about the incident.