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The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, or Numsa, has called for the prosecution of mine bosses in light of the high levels of fatalities in the mining sector in recent years.

This call follows the death of six workers at Palabora Mining Company’s copper mine in Limpopo on Sunday, who died when they became trapped after a fire broke out underground in the early hours of that morning.

In a statement, Numsa acting national spokeswoman Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said that mine safety remains a huge problem in our country.

“A spate of fatalities at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations, including a seismic event that killed seven miners in early May, has highlighted this crisis. One death underground is far too many and we have seen shockingly high levels of fatalities in the sector in recent years.”

Hlubi-Majola said that the mining industry does not value the lives of African workers in the sector, which she said was the reason for the high numbers of fatalities in the industry.

“We call for a full investigation into this incident, and in the sector as a whole. Furthermore, we reinforce calls made by our federation SAFTU for the Mine Health and Safety Act to be amended to allow for the prosecution of mine bosses if workers are killed underground.

Numsa also called for the nationalisation of mines as a permanent solution to the crisis of fatalities in the sector.

Hlubi-Majola said that mines, which are “strategic assets” should “operate for the benefit of the working class majority and society in general” and “not be profit driven, and used as vehicles to enrich the elite minority.