Unions call for change in Mine Heath and Safety Act

Two mining unions are calling for amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA), after yet another death at the Khomanani shaft at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Driefontein operations.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) says the act must be changed so that mine bosses can be prosecuted.

Mine spokesperson James Wellsted said a 35-year-old winch operator had entered a gully while busy cleaning during the night shift when he was hit by a scraper.

“The Mine Health and Safety Act must be amended so that mine bosses [can] also be held responsible. They must be prosecuted and sent to jail,” NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said.

READ MORE: Another fatality at Sibanye Driefontein mine

He said the union was on its way to the mine to assist with investigations.

“It is a very worrying situation at Sibanye and it shows that the company does not care about the mineworkers and the health and safety precautions,” Mammburu said.

Death toll

Mammburu added that a “simple investigation” into the matter was not enough.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is also calling for urgent intervention, saying the current spate of deaths at Sibanye-Stillwater is a crime against humanity.

The death toll at the company’s operations this year alone stands at more than 20 — close to half of the fatalities in the entire mining industry.

AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa has asked that Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe and President Cyril Ramaphosa intervene, and specifically look at Section 23 of the MHSA.

“This section gives workers the right to refuse to work in dangerous conditions, and the union [AMCU] wants it amended to give more power to workers and trade unions to counter the power of mining bosses.”

He said the union was working on proposals, which would include specific procedures to strengthen Section 23, as the current stipulations were deemed to be too open-ended.

“Currently, workers fear victimisation and unfair disciplinary action when calling upon this right. They fear being bullied and intimidated for making a stand.”

“The obvious other fear relates to loss of income,” he said.

Mathunjwa said more investment was needed for the training of workers to recognise “hazardous working conditions”.

He said the union would raise the health and safety concerns at the Sibanye-Stillwater’s Safety Summit, which is expected to take place on Friday. — News 24

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