Rescued miner says he fears for workers’ lives

Miner holding his safety hat. 123RF/ fesenko
Miner holding his safety hat. 123RF/ fesenko
Image: 123RF/ fesenko

A mineworker rescued from Sibanye-Stillwater's Beatrix mine in the Free State said he fears for mineworkers’ safety when mining operations resumed on Friday.

But mine spokesperson James Wellsted denied claims that the generators were not fully functional.

The power outage was caused by a severe storm which hit the province on Wednesday‚ damaging Eskom’s power lines.

Phakiso Nanyane‚ who was one of the 950 miners rescued when they were trapped underground for about 30 hours after a power failure‚ complained about the mine's response for medical attention and food.

“The medical attention was poor. The food also came late and only about a quarter of the people ate. It was a dangerous situation. It was difficult. It’s not something we are used to‚" Nanyane said during an interview on the SABC's Morning Live show.

He claimed this was the second time that such an incident had occurred.

"The problem is that management could not foresee it. The first time we went in at night. We only came out the next morning at around 11am. Now we went in at 10pm [on Wednesday] we are only coming out now on Friday. We ask ourselves‚ what will happen if this continues‚” Nanyane said.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) chairperson at the mine‚ Koloi Tisa‚ also raised concerns. “Safety is a serious issue because‚ when people are trapped underground‚ the escape route from where they were trapped at [shaft three] to shaft two is a very long distance. I agree with the employees that their safety is at risk.”

He said the generators were not effective and‚ "because the first generator couldn’t take the weight”‚ it tripped‚ which meant the generators were not maintained.

But‚ said Wellsted: “Backup generators at two of the shafts were effective in allowing the hoisting of 272 employees at the one shaft and 64 at the other.

“The power surge‚ which resulted from the Eskom power lines being destroyed‚ affected the software on a winder at our number 3 shaft and‚ as a result‚ we were unable to bring workers to the surface until Eskom power had been restored." 

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