/ 21 July 2010

Two die in Northam Platinum mine accident

Two miners died at Northam Platinum’s Zondereinde mine near Thabazimbi, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Wednesday.

“The workers died due to a fall of ground,” the NUM said in a statement.

The accident took place on Tuesday morning, and the NUM condemned what it called the company’s “going the extra mile” to hide the accident from the union.

“The death came to the attention of the branch only this morning [Wednesday] when the Department of Mineral Resources informed the branch that a section 54 notice of the Mine Health and Safety Act had been issued, suspending operations.”

However, Northam Platinum said a statement had been released on Tuesday evening on the accident.

Management told the South African Press Association that it was surprised by the NUM’s comments as the union had been involved in the inspection that had taken place soon after the accident.

The NUM called for stiffer penalties and measures against companies and executives “that attempt to hide mine deaths in order to score safety bonuses”.

According to the union, the latest deaths brought the death toll in the mining industry to 70 since January 2010.

“It is shocking that the 70 that died is what the Chamber of Mines calls safety progress,” said Peter Bailey, the NUM’s chairperson for health and safety.

The accident was the result of a localised fall of ground in a cross-cut about 1 350m underground, Northam Platinum said.

The area had been supported with grouted roof bolts.

Northam said drilling and blasting activities had been suspended while management implemented an audit of support compliance and ground conditions throughout the underground workings. — Sapa