Mineworkers addicted to drugs and alcohol are exposing their colleagues to more danger in an already unsafe environment.
AngloGold Ashanti public relations officer Julia Schoeman said the mining house had admitted four percent of its employees to substance abuse rehabilitation programmes since the beginning of the year.
Treatment for addiction to alcohol and drugs was ongoing but most employees were fit and able to return to work after 21 days in the treatment programme.
Schoeman said many patients were admitted of their own accord, while others were referred by occupational health or human resources.
She said patients who relapsed were readmitted to the rehabilitation programme and the emphasis would be relapse management.
She said workers who took drugs or alcohol before going to work could injure themselves or their co-workers.
National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said they did not regard substance abuse as a problem among their members.
"Alcohol and drugs are not their biggest problem. Our research showed that HIV-Aids is," Seshoka said.
He said NUM allowed branches with cases of substance abuse to deal with them. But Seshoka said NUM did not have a national strategy to deal with substance abuse.
Mabiki Mtshali, deputy director of the South African National Council for Drug and Alcohol Abuse (Sanca), said dagga could slow down the functioning of the mind.
"This might cause the miner to respond very slowly or to view a dangerous situation to the contrary. So many things have happened to their workmates and they might want to dull that pain or thought," Mtshali said.
Malose Langa, a psychology lecturer at Wits University, said there was a strong relationship between mining accidents and substance abuse.
"Miners are traumatised," Langa said. "To deal with their fears and feelings of powerlessness, some resort to substances to numb their fears.
"Miners who go underground are poor working class black men who feel emasculated and humiliated by their working conditions.
"Some are still called boys or k*****s by their white bosses, or humiliated by BEE bosses. They feel ashamed and helpless to be working under dangerous conditions, but many do not have choices to change their jobs.
"Mineworkers are expected to be brave and strong. Those who express themselves are seen as cowards. Alcohol or drug use is not seen as a problem but as part of mining lifestyle."
He said the use of alcohol and drugs was an attempt to win status among fellow mineworkers and of dealing with occupational stress.
Langa said miners should be supported to develop a positive self-image because many miners felt marginalised by society.