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Kusasalethu safety concerns – NUM

Sapa

Health and safety standards at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu gold mine are “very questionable”, the National Union of Mineworkers said on Monday.

“As a union, we are deeply concerned about the trend that continues to threaten the lives of many workers in Harmony operations,” NUM national health and safety secretary Erick Gcilitshana said in a statement.

“We call upon this mining house to pull up its socks and improve its health and safety system to prevent re-occurrence of these fires or these operations are heading to a disaster.”

Gcilitshana was responding to the rescue of 486 workers brought to surface safely on Sunday after an underground fire.

Company spokeswoman Charmane Russell said she would respond to NUM’s statement later on Monday.

In February 2014 eight people died in an underground fire at the company’s Doornkop mine.

“Once again we call upon the DMR (department of mineral resources) inspectorate to quickly investigate the source of this fire and other contributing factors,” Gcilitshana said.

“The workers must be united in dealing with their health and safety in the mining industry and use their hard-won worker rights that NUM fought for to be legislated.”

However, trade union Solidarity commended Harmony for swiftly ensuring the safety of mineworkers.

“The successful rescue operation sets a good example to the rest of the industry of how emergency situations should be responded to,” Solidarity’s occupational health and safety division head Paul Mardon said in a statement.

“The incident once again highlights the importance of mine safety as well.”

Mardon said in light of the successful rescue effort that mine safety had improved significantly over the past 12 years.

The improvement could be attributed to the commitment of employers, organised labour and government, who had been joining forces since 2003 to improve the quality of occupational health and safety, he said.

“Although significant progress has been made in respect of health and safety in South African mines, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

“The mining industry is and will always be dangerous and is faced with numerous challenges. These challenges include, among other things, illegal mining and inadequate training of health and safety representatives.”

Harmony said on Monday that all operations were temporarily suspended after the fire. Russell said a joint investigation by the mine and the DMR had started.

“Employees do have access to counselling after a situation like this. Everyone was evacuated on Sunday and no injuries were reported.”

All 486 employees underground at the time were brought to the surface safely.

“We are extremely grateful that all of our colleagues have been brought to surface, without injury,” CEO Graham Briggs said in a statement on Sunday.

“This is to the credit of our systems, employees, the unions, and mine management who have worked tirelessly over the past 12 hours.”

All workers would be sent for observation to make sure they were physically healthy.

The fire started on the mine’s 75 level, approximately 2300m below surface, around 9.40am on Sunday. It had since been contained.

Some of the miners used refuge bays which had fresh air, water and telephone communication to surface. The fire was believed to have started during maintenance work on a bulk air cooler.

Article provided with the kind courtesy of www.citizen.co.za

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