Sibanye-Stillwater Driefontein: The reactions

Worker organisations raise concern over company's safety record



5 May 2018 

The African National Congress saddened by the tragic deaths of seven mineworkers at Sibanye-Stillwater mine’s Driefontein operations, and has conveyed its heartfelt condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of the deceased.

The ANC is concerned that these fatal mine accidents are taking place with monotonous regularity. This tragic accident must serve as an urgent reminder to mining companies to pay more focused attention to mine safety. We hope that the latest tragedy will shake mining companies into prioritising the safety of workers.

We wish to join the mining unions in their call for mining companies to improve safety measures at their operations. There must be a total overhaul of safety measures in all mining operations. Among other things, mining companies have a responsibility to ensure that effective rescue plans are in place.

We urge mining companies to put the lives of workers above profits. The safety, health and well-being of workers cannot be sacrificed at the altar of greed and profit. Mining companies must be compelled to invest in safety measures as part of the long-term strategy to prevent such tragedies from happening in future. The Department of Mining Resources must be uncompromising in its enforcement of safety measures in the mines.

We are confident that the Minister of Mining Resources, Cde Gwede Mantashe, will ensure speedy and thorough investigation of this tragic incident in order to prevent similar accidents from happening in future.

Statement issued by Pule Mabe, ANC national spokesperson, 5 May 2018


Sibanye Stillwater’s terrible safety record is deeply alarming

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is alarmed by the deteriorating and poor safety record of Sibanye Stillwater mining company. This follows the latest incident, where 13 workers were trapped underground at Masakhane mine in Westonaria, one has since been reported dead and seven workers still remain missing. We send our condolences to the family ,friends and colleagues of the dead miner and our prayers to the missing mineworkers and their families.

This happens barely a couple of months since two workers died at another Sibanye operation and 1100 workers were trapped underground for more than twenty hours at another Sibanye Stillwater Mining operation in Beatrix, Free State.

Sibanye Stillwater’s deteriorating safety record is alarming considering that this is the company that was one of the safest companies in the Gold Sector in 2015. The Department of Mineral Resources and the Department of Labour needs to take seriously this deteriorating safety record by conducting a thorough investigation.

It is scandalous that the mining sector has seen more than 25 deaths already this year but government is still reluctant to implement Section 54 mine stoppages under the Health and Safety Act. Government is sacrificing workers because it is afraid of the mining companies. While we appreciate that there was a tremor underground at Masakhane, COSATU still demands more action from government to force companies to adhere to safety regulations.

Statement issued by Sizwe Pamla, Cosatu National Spokesperson, 5 May 2018


SAFTU mourns mine deaths and demands action to improve safety 

The South African Federation of Trade Unions is deeply concerned and saddened at the tragedy at Sibanye-Stillwater's Masakhane Shaft at the Driefontein mine in Westonaria.

13 mine workers were trapped underground after a seismic incident in the shaft. Six have been rescued, four have died and three are still trapped underground, two of whom are reported to be fatally injured. 

SAFTU sends its condolences to the family, friends and fellow workers of the deceased and our best wishes to those injured for a full and speedy recovery. There must also be no delay in bringing up those still trapped.

The Departments of Mineral Resources and Labour must immediately conduct an investigation into the accident and take action to prevent any further such tragedies. This latest tragedy was caused by a seismic shift, but these are a hazard that can be expected in deep mines and research must be done to find ways of managing their impact on those working underground so that no more lives are lost.

It is of particular concern that Sibanye-Stillwater has a bad record on mine safety. It also owns the Beatrix mine where, on 31 January 2018, 955 mine workers were trapped underground for more than 24 hours, following a collapse of both the primary and secondary Eskom powerlines supplying electricity to the mine. The collapse had caused a power surge and outage at all three shafts at the Beatrix operations.

The death toll in South Africa’s mines this year has now risen to 26. More must be done to bring this figure down. Workers’ lives must be the top priority, and not maximizing profits.

Statement issued by Zwelinzima Vavi, SAFTU General Secretary, 4 May 2018


Sibanye-Stillwater mine accident: Major concerns about safety in SA mines

Trade union Solidarity today expressed its grave concern about safety in South African mines in the wake of the recent accident at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Masakhane shaft at Driefontein in Gauteng.

According to adv. Paul Mardon, Solidarity’s deputy general secretary for occupational health and safety, there is particular concern about seismic activities in deep-level mines that cause falls of ground leading to mining fatalities and injuries.

This comes after 13 miners were trapped underground on 3 May after a landslide caused by seismic activity. Adv. Mardon says that although the incident still has to be investigated in full indications are that it could have been preceded by seismic activity and that it was followed by further seismic activity. “Despite major personal danger, the search and rescue team managed to locate six miners and brought them to safety. Sadly, seven miners have lost their lives though,” adv. Mardon said.

Adv. Mardon also said that despite the many steps that have been taken to ensure mine safety and a constant decline in mining fatalities and mine injuries has been achieved up to 2016 the trade union remains concerned about the increase in fatalities in mines since 2017. “Mineral Resources Minister, Gwede Mantashe, has not yet announced the official health and safety figures for mines in 2017, but according to provisional indications, 86 miners died in South African mines in 2017, compared to the 73 mining fatalities in 2016; the 77 in 2015; and the 84 in 2014. Preliminary figures for 2018 also look bleak with 33 fatalities recorded to date, compared to the 28 during the corresponding period last year, and the 25 during the corresponding period in 2016,” Mardon added.

According to adv. Mardon, a decrease in the number of falls of ground has been reported.  He, however, pointed out that the increase in fatalities due to falls of ground is cause for concern. “It shows that the severity of falls of ground is on the increase. In 2016, falls of ground in South African mines totalled 459 (of which 249 occurred in gold mines), compared to the preliminary total of 437 (of which 213 occurred in gold mines) in 2017. According to preliminary figures for 2018, 116 falls of ground (43 of which were in gold mines) occurred to date already, compared to the 156 (79 of which took place in gold mines) during the corresponding period in 2017,” adv. Mardon said.

Solidarity also expressed its concern about the lack of high-level talks between the various stakeholders in the mining industry to promote health and safety. “The former Minister of Mineral Resources postponed high-level talks in this regard, and no such talks have yet taken place with the new minister,” adv. Mardon said.

Solidarity reminds employees of their legal right to withdraw from unsafe working conditions, and urges them to do so should it be necessary. Employers are also urged to respect the exercising of this right. Solidarity once again calls on employers to make concerted and renewed attempts to prevent mining fatalities and calls on all players at all levels in mining to accept full responsibility for themselves and for each other in a mature spirit of collaboration and interdependence.

Statement issued by Adv. Paul Mardon, Deputy General Secretary Occupational Health and Safety, 5 May 2018



President Cyril Ramaphosa has expressed his sadness at the death of seven workers at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Driefontein mine near Carletonville on the West Rand.

The death toll at the mine has risen to seven following initial reports that four workers had passed away.

“As government and South Africans at large, our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the deceased workers, among whom are workers from neighbouring states including Mozambique,” said President Ramaphosa.

“We also offer our best wishes to workers who have been directly or indirectly affected by this disaster, which should move the mining industry and government to jointly find ways to do all we can to protect our nation’s most valuable 
resource - the workers who are at the heart of our economy.

“We should spare no cost and no collaboration to ensure that workers are safe and their families are adequately cared for and compensated when disaster and tragedy strike.”

President Ramaphosa hopes the investigation into the Driefontein disaster will identify the causes of the incident and lead to solutions that will address the unacceptable rate of death in South African mines.

Statement issued by Khusela Diko, Spokesperson for the Presidency, 5 May 2018