Gold mining company Sibanye-Stillwater has convened a safety summit, attended by representatives of the South African Government and miners’ union to address recent accidents in the company’s mines that have killed seven workers.
The summit featured the Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and trade unions the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), United Association of South Africa (UASA) and Solidarity. Representatives from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), which Sibanye-Stillwater accused of ‘pursuing a clear agenda’ following the deaths at the company’s mines, were also present.
Sibanye-Stillwater said in a statement: “As organised labour, the DMR and the management of Sibanye-Stillwater, we acknowledge the parties’ statutory obligation and workers right that our destiny is shared and commit ourselves, through constructive, transparent collaboration and compliance, to achieving zero harm.”
The company also acknowledged the existence of a ‘plateau’ with regards to reducing mining fatalities and suggested that a ‘different and collaborative approach’ involving a range of organisations would be required to reverse the increasing number of fatalities in South African mines.
All attendees to the summit signed a pledge to establish what Sibanye-Stillwater called the ‘scope and spirit’ of their work towards eliminating mining fatalities. A follow-up workshop has been scheduled to take place at the end of June to decide on policies to implement this pledge.
The summit was called following significant pressure from the miners’ unions, particularly AMCU. The union called for an inquiry into the health and safety credentials of AngloGold-Ashanti in October last year and and the establishment of a safety summit this February after another fatality at a Sibanye-Stillwater operation.
Last month, the AMCU said in a statement: “We firmly believe that it is the role of government to regulate the economy and in the mining industry this role must be played by the DMR. AMCU believes the DMR is currently failing in its regulatory role and that it is biased towards mining houses without proper attention being paid to the socio-economic needs of workers and communities.”
There have already been 29 deaths in South African mines this year, following 88 recorded fatalities in 2017, the first time in a decade the number of fatalities had increased from the previous year.