Mine deaths investigation under way

Mhlaba Memela

Mhlaba Memela

An inquiry to establish the cause of death of six people after an explosion at Assmang manganese plant in Cato Ridge in Durban at the weekend has begun.

The inquiry will look into the health and safety standards of workers while the factory is temporarily closed.

Mining magnate Patrice Motsepe is one of the shareholders in Assmang.

The inquiry is also tasked with establishing the exposure of workers to toxic fumes that allegedly resulted in 40 cases of illness.

Nine people were injured at the weekend after a boiler burst at the factory.

One worker died on the scene, while others were treated for burns and taken to hospital.

Five others died in hospital later.

Motsepe visited the plant and was locked in a meeting with the management, union, eThekwini mayor Obed Mlaba and provincial MEC for social development, Meshack Radebe.

This is the second horrific death at the factory in less than three months. In December a worker died when molten manganese caught fire.

Addressing workers, Motsepe said he planned to visit the plant.

"I did not want to visit during such a horrific incident," he said.

"The safety and health of workers comes first and it cannot be sacrificed for profit.

"We need to be genuine when we talk about safety in our plants. We are very sorry about what happened and we are all weeping. The incident affects all of us."

Plant workers will continue reporting for work but will be moved in another section.

Motsepe said factories should not fool workers because profit was not more important than people's lives.

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