2009 mining death toll rises to 40

SIX mineworkers were killed this week, bringing mining accident deaths in the country to almost 40 this year, but the fatality rate has slowed down compared to last year, officials said.

SIX mineworkers were killed this week, bringing mining accident deaths in the country to almost 40 this year, but the fatality rate has slowed down compared to last year, officials said.

South Africa has an awful safety record compared to its peers in the industrialised world and the fatalities have led to temporary closures of mines by authorities, reducing output.

Paul Mardon, head of safety at the Solidarity union, said the fatality rate at mining operations this year has decline compared with the previous year.

By the end of April, 32 workers had been killed in the country's mines compared with 51 deaths in the same period last year, he said.

Some 165 workers died in mines last year, compared with 171 deaths in 2008.

The latest fatalities occurred at a Samancor chrome mine, where two workers were hit by falling rocks following a blasting exercise that went wrong, the National Union of Mineworkers said.

According to NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka, the two died on Wednesday night after rocks fell over workers who were underground.

He alleged that the workers were ordered to blast even though the mine was not cleared. He said the NUM was "highly perturbed" by the resurgence of mining accidents.

Other deaths this week have been reported at Harmony Gold's Joel mine, which led to suspension of gold output. - Reuters and Sapa

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