Mine bosses must be held 'personally liable' for deaths‚ says Numsa

An electronic sign at Palabora Mining Company indicating that it has been three days since the last injury at the mine.
An electronic sign at Palabora Mining Company indicating that it has been three days since the last injury at the mine.
Image: ANTONIO MUCHAVE

The National Union of Metalworkers believes one of the best ways to decrease mining accidents and fatalities is to hold mining bosses liable.

“We reinforce calls made by our federation SAFTU (South African Federation of Trade Unions) for the Mine Health and Safety Act to be amended to allow for the prosecution of mine bosses if workers are killed underground‚” said Numsa’s acting spokesperson‚ Phakamile Hlubi-Majola‚ on Tuesday.

“They must be held personally liable for lives lost underground. Perhaps if this is done‚ we will begin to see an end to fatalities underground‚” she added.

Hlubi-Majola was reacting to the death of six mineworkers at the Palabora Mining Company which specialises in copper mining in Limpopo. They died after an underground fire.

One mineworker survived.

“Mine safety remains a huge problem in our country‚” Hlubi-Majola said. “One death underground is far too many and we have seen shockingly high levels of fatalities in the sector in recent years‚” she added.

She alleged that the mining industry did not value the lives of African mineworkers. “The only permanent solution to this crisis is for mines to be nationalised. These are strategic assets which should be placed under the democratic ownership of the working class. They should not be profit-driven and used as vehicles to enrich the elite minority‚” Hlubi-Majola said. “Instead‚ they should operate for the benefit of the working class majority and society in general.”

The Economic Freedom Fighters also called for action. “The EFF reiterates that mineworkers remain the spine of the South African economy. There should be great safety underground and in the entire mining field to ensure that our people are never swallowed at the belly of the earth‚ digging the gold that never transforms their lives‚” said spokesperson Mbuyiseni Ndlozi in a statement.

“We hope there will be an investigation that will lead to those responsible being held accountable as per mining regulator‚” he added.

Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe visited the mine on Tuesday.

He had earlier called for mining companies to take care of their workers. “We reiterate our call to mining companies to prioritise the safety of mineworkers at all times‚” he said.

“It is unfortunate that yet again‚ as a country‚ we have lost so many lives in this disaster. These deaths add to an already high number of lost lives in the industry‚ since the beginning of the year‚” said Mantashe.

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