NEWS & ANALYSIS

Three major mining accidents in two months – Solidarity

Union says investigation needed to get to bottom of Palabora Copper Mine fatalities

Third mining disaster in two months leads to more questions than answers – Solidarity 

Trade union Solidarity said today that the tragic mining accident at the  in Limpopo in which six employees died, was the third major mining accident in a two-month period, leaving the mining industry with more questions than answers.

This follows after six mineworkers were trapped underground on 15 July due to a conveyer belt that caught fire. According to Adv. Paul Mardon, deputy general secretary of Occupational Health and Safety at Solidarity, such an accident is not uncommon because of the constant friction that the conveyor belts are subjected to. Adv. Mardon added that due to similar incidents in the past, the Department of Mineral Resources issued safety regulations requiring all conveyor belts to have fire-retardant textile-reinforced conveyor belting. “However, at this stage, there are many questions that need to be answered,” Adv. Mardon said.

Adv. Mardon rightly wanted to know if the conveyor belt that caught fire was a fire-retardant one, and if so, when last the particular conveyor belt had been inspected and serviced with a view to safety. In addition, Adv. Mardon pointed out that safety regulations require mines to have early alarm instruments underground to signal early warnings in case of fire. “In this way, workers can be warned timeously to evacuate a danger zone in good time. It would appear as if this was not the case in this instance,” Mardon said.

According to Adv. Mardon, a full-scale investigation would be launched shortly to establish the cause of this tragic accident. “Solidarity will be part of the investigations on an ongoing basis in a bid to get to the bottom of the incident,” Adv. Mardon concluded.

Statement issued by Adv. Paul Mardon, Solidarity Deputy General Secretary: Occupational Health and Safety, 17 July 2018