Address by the Deputy Minister of Mineral Resources, Honourable Mr Godfrey Oliphant during memorial service for the mineworkers who lost their lives during and underground gassing accident at Driefontein 4 Shaft Known As Ya Rona
30 Jun 2012The Bereaved Family members, Friends, Relatives and Work Colleagues,
Mr Senzeni Zokwana, President of the NUM,
Members and other Leadership of the Organised Labour,
Mr Nick Holland, Chief Executive of Gold Fields,
Management and Staff of the Driefontein Gold Mine,
Officials from the Department of Mineral Resources
May I request that we all rise for a moment of silence to pay our last respect to those workers who have perished in the mining industry to date, these very miners have paid with their lives for their meagre wages and the high profits generated for the mine executives.
We have all gathered here at Driefontein Gold Mine today to share in the grief of the families who have lost their loved ones in this mining disaster, to offer them our solidarity, support and to help them to make the unbearable loss which they have suffered a little less agonising.
Today, we converge to pay our respect at this memorial service to the five mine workers who were your husbands, brothers, fathers, mentors, role models and breadwinners.
I would like to again convey my heartfelt condolences together with the Director-General and the Department of Mineral Resources to the bereaved family members of the following workers of the Driefontein Gold Mine who lost their lives in this tragic accident:
- Mr Colekele John Bankane (49)
- Mr Josiah Musa Dlamini (48)
- Mr Mlungiselwa Madevana (40)
- Mr Mziwakhe Seagent Mankunzi (41)
- Mr Bavuyise Mbola (38)
This accident, amongst others, is one accident that was not supposed to have happened.
These precious lives loss cannot be in vain; a thorough investigation was immediately instituted and currently in progress. An inquiry will be held into this tragedy to determine the root causes and to ensure that it is not repeated ever again. We expect heads to roll if any negligence has been found on the part of any person. Now is the time that mine executives take responsibilities for what is happening in their organisations, in respect of health and safety of mine workers.
We find it unacceptable that Gold Fields still continues to be the major contributor of the carnage of workers in the mining sector, with 10 workers having lost their lives this year up to date. It is also of great concern that Driefontein Mine remains the main source of death of mine workers, followed by Beatrix operations, within Gold Fields and the industry.
The number of fatalities is rising again after the industry have recorded the lowest deaths ever during April 2012, this is a serious regression and a quantum leap in commitment is needed to stem the tide of fatalities and to make our mines safer and healthier.
It is with deep regret to report that during 2012 so far a total of 63 fatalities occurred within the mining industry. The breakdown of the 63 mine deaths per commodity is as follows: gold (27), platinum (21), coal (7) and other mines (8). Other mines include, diamonds, chrome, copper, iron ore, etc. The major gold and platinum mines continue to be the main contributor of accidents and loss of life. This is regrettable as it is expected that these mines should have the appropriate measures and expertise to enhance health and safety.
Early this year, Gold Fields held a Summit to commit on achieving significant improvement regarding the health and safety of workers. The Department continues to support such initiatives. However, we expect that the company should live these commitments and ensure that they result in the prevention of the loss of life.
The mining industry has for decades been the backbone of our economy and a major provider of employment in South Africa. But the benefits of these contributions to development have always been over-shadowed by the continued industry’s poor health and safety record.
Even today this sector’s commitment to the health and safety of workers and communities affected by mining is questioned. Now is the time to change. The question that remains in my mind is whether the mining industry is genuinely committed beyond various statements that they have been made in improving health and safety of mine workers.
We, very often, compare the number of fatalities, draw trend lines and do regression analysis etcetera, on the health and safety data – this is important – However it does not speak to the pain and suffering that has to be endured by the relatives of those deceased miners.
In a country where a better life for all has been promised, we cannot continue robbing family members of their loved ones. The repercussions from loss of lives go well beyond the mine boundaries.
I have visited many mines and remain convinced that more can be done to safeguard the mineworkers and to provide systems that will forewarn them of impending dangers as required by law.
It is my expectation that greater respect needs to be paid to the health and safety of our mine workers; these are individuals who make huge sacrifices for working under often hostile conditions to earn a better living and to contribute to the profits of the mining companies and the country’s economy.
As a Department responsible for enforcing the provisions of the Mine Health and Safety Act, we are stating here today that; If you cannot mine safely –then don’t mine ! It is our expectation that those who extract the mineral wealth of our country do so without killing, maiming or causing any occupational ill health and diseases.
The Government and the Department in particular have become increasingly intolerant of mine fatalities and incidences of occupational diseases. The current situation we find ourselves in, justifies us to intensify the use of Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, amongst other enforcement tools which are at our disposal and the Act is being reviewed to assist us to achieve this end of “Zero harm”.
Some have been complaining about the application of Section 54 in the mining industry. We will apply the use of natural justice on a case by case basis as we deal with the concerns raised by some in the industry who seem convinced that the financial bottom line reigns supreme over the other equally important dimensions of sustainability. We want to state categorically that it is mischievous to regard section 54 as the contributor to the loss of production. This flies in the face of the reality that mine operational challenges, are contributing significantly to low production.
We would also like to reiterate our commitment as a department to ensuring the growth and development of the mining sector of this country, but it can never be at the expense of peoples’ lives. We have consistently said that if mining companies cannot mine safely then they should not mine at all.
The department will continue to work together with our social partners through our tripartite structures to ensure that there is a significant and sustained improvement on the health and safety of mine workers.
On behalf of the Department of Mineral Resources I once again convey deepest and heartfelt condolences to all the bereaved families. We wish you strength in the difficult days ahead. We want the family to know that we are with them in their moment of grief. We know that your pain and sorrow are immeasurable. We can only try to grasp the depth of your grief. However, please be comforted by the fact that the Department of Mineral Resources share your sorrow, and that we are here to hold your hand in your hour of need.
I thank you.
Issued by: Department of Mineral Resources
30 Jun 2012
[ Top ]