Amplats' Thembelani 2 Project Vent Shaft. Image by Geoff Brown for Amplats

South Africa – The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is urging mining companies to build momentum on women‘s rights, peace and security at the workplace in the wake of a rape incident, which took place at the Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) Thembelani mine, in Rustenburg, on Sunday (March 8, 2015).

Amplats' Thembelani 2 Project Vent Shaft. Image by Geoff Brown for Amplats
Amplats’ Thembelani 2 Project Vent Shaft. Image by Geoff Brown for Amplats

The incident occurred at the women’s change house at the mine. Preliminary investigations indicate that one female employee was allegedly sexually assaulted by an outsider who gained access to the mine site illegally. The investigation further found that the same intruder also attempted to harm a second female employee.

Amplats said in a statement that swift action by its protection services resulted in the suspect being apprehended on the same day, who was then handed over to the South African Police Services. It also said that both female employees were receiving trauma counselling and medical support provided by the company.

NUM, who strongly condemns the rape, said in a statement last week that it worried that “not much has been done to change the culture of aggressive masculinity that characterises the mining sector as a whole, and mine shafts, in particular.”

The statement further said that although women are now working underground in large numbers, nothing has been done to make mines safe in which women can work free from sexual harassment and violence. There is no doubt that sexual abuse and gender-based violence in mines is still pervasive.

NUM, who believes the industry remains untransformed and male-dominated, says it took a decision to fight for women to work at mines following a brutal rape and murder incident at Amplats’ Khomanani Mine, in Rustenburg, in 2012.

“As the NUM, we abhor violence and call on the law enforcement agencies to act without fear or favour. It is regrettable that the escalating violence against women, in particular, seeks to reverse the gains the country made in relation to the employment of women in the mines,” the statement said.

The NUM objects to the intentions made by some to try and turn the mining industry into a “men only” enclave.

In response to the incident, Amplats says it condemns violence against women in any shape or form. Amplats CEO Chris Griffith said: “We are deeply saddened by and strongly condemn this violent criminal act. The safety of all of our employees is our number one priority. We are currently investigating how this incident could happen and, in particular, whether any security lapses occurred. We are committed to doing everything in our ability to make any necessary changes to our security measures to ensure that this, or something similar, does not happen again.”

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