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03 May 2008 17:24
Mining operations at Gold Fields’ South Deep mine will resume on Monday, the company said on Saturday, two days after nine workers were killed in an accident.
Gold Fields, under fire after a string of accidents in the past week that killed 14 workers, said no mining would take place at South Deep until after a meeting Monday morning between management, unions and a provincial mining inspector.
“All underground employees are advised not to report for duty until the night shift of Monday, 5th May, 2008,” the mining firm and its trade unions said in a joint letter to Gold Fields employees.
It added that workers performing essential services were to report for duty as normal and that all parties would cooperate fully with investigators from the Department of Minerals and Energy Affairs.
The focus of the investigation is on a cable that apparently snapped on Thursday morning, causing a cage carrying the nine workers to plunge more than 50m down the shaft near Carletonville outside Johannesburg.
The accident occurred two days after four workers were killed after an underground accident at Gold Fields’ Driefontein mine. Another died after a rock fall at South Deep the same day.
South Africa, a major producer of gold and platinum, has one of the highest number of work-related mining deaths in the industrialised world, with an average of 244 per year reported between 1997 and 2007.
Deaths rose about 10% in the sector last year, according to the government.
Growing concern about slipping safety prompted the National Union of Mineworkers to hold a protest strike in December 2007, in which about 240 000 workers downed tools at gold, platinum and other mines.
South Africa’s government has responded to mining fatalities by temporarily ordering some operations to shut, a move that has sent a chill through the sector and led firms to focus more attention on the issue.
Unions say the mining industry, especially in South Africa, has generally been reluctant to sacrifice production in the name of safety and tended to view workers, especially black ones, as expendable.
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