The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is calling for an inquest into the high rate of fatalities in the South African mining industry after mining house Sibanye-Stillwater recorded a fifth death at its Marikana platinum group metals (PGM) operations for 2021.
The union on November 23 alleged that the miner was “cutting corners in safety protocols” and claimed that government was failing to ensure the implementation of necessary health and safety protocols.
The latest death happened when a rock-drill operator was killed by a dislodged rock while performing an early entry examination on Panel 1, 24 X-Cut at 10 level East.
This brings the total deaths in the mining sector for the year to date to 59, with Sibanye accounting for 13 fatalities at its gold and PGM operations in South Africa.
According to AMCU, Sibanye’s Marikana operations are “proving to be the most dangerous mine to work in”, leading the score with five workers killed in the year-to-date.
Following the latest fatality, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy will perform an in loco investigation, after which Sibanye will be compelled to do its own investigation in terms of Section 11.5 of the Mine Health and Safety Act.
In emailed responses to Mining Weekly, Sibanye confirmed the fatal incident at its East 3 shaft at Marikana, in which the miner said "a colleague was tragically fatally injured [owing] to a fall of ground incident which occurred during the entry examination. Despite the efforts of our mine rescue and medical teams, he succumbed to his injuries".
Sibanye confirmed that it was busy investigating the incident with relevant stakeholders and said that "no effort will be spared to try and avoid similar incidents in future".
Commenting on the number of fatalities in the mining industry, Sibanye noted that "there has been a regression in fatal incidents across the South African mining industry during 2021" and said that it would continue to work together with all stakeholders to try and address the tragic trend.