Miners threaten strike over safety

South Africa's largest mining union threatened yesterday to launch a strike to protest poor safety conditions, just days after 3200 workers were trapped underground for more than 30 hours.

South Africa's largest mining union threatened yesterday to launch a strike to protest poor safety conditions, just days after 3200 workers were trapped underground for more than 30 hours.

"We are contemplating embarking on a strike over our safety conditions. The strike is to make a statement on the unsafe working conditions in the mines," said Frans Baleni, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

"We are waiting for the outcome of the audit safety review of the mines ordered at the weekend by President Thabo Mbeki before we take our action," he said.

Mbeki ordered a safety review on Friday of all South Africa's mines after a successful operation to rescue the workers, who were trapped more than a kilometre underground at a gold mine in Carletonville, southwest of Johannesburg.

Although no-one was killed or seriously injured in the incident, NUM officials say an average of 18 miners die a month.

Twenty-three illegal miners were killed last week in a fire at a disused shaft in the central Free State.

The NUM would hold a meeting with officials of the Minerals and Energy Ministry this week over safety issues, Baleni said, without giving details.

South Africa's mining industry is one of the main drivers of the continent's largest economy.

Aside from gold, the country has significant reserves of platinum, coal and diamonds. - AFP

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