Johannesburg, South Africa — 11 July 2012 –
The South African government expects heads to roll should negligence have been the cause of last week’s disaster at Gold Fields’ KDC West mine in which five workers died.
Speaking at a memorial service for the deceased, deputy minister of mineral resources Godfrey Oliphant singled out Gold Fields as a major contributor to mine casualties in South Africa. Miningmx quotes him as saying that the company had accounted for 10 of the 63 deaths experienced at mines so far in 2012.
“We find it unacceptable that Gold Fields still continues to be the major contributor to the carnage of workers in the mining sector,” he said. “It is also of great concern that Driefontein mine (part of the KDC complex) remains the main source of death of mine workers, followed by Beatrix, also within Gold Fields.”
He added that the department would launch a formal inquiry into the accident.
South Africa’s mining industry recorded its lowest ever monthly fatality figures in April with three deaths, but the trend wasn’t sustained. Oliphant said gold (27) accounted for most of the 63 deaths this year, followed by platinum (21) and coal (8).
“The mining industry has for decades been the backbone of our economy and a major provider of employment in South Africa,” Oliphant stated. “But the benefits of these contributions to development have always been overshadowed by the industry’s continued poor health and safety record,” he added.
“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 mineworkers.”
Oliphant said the prevalence of fatalities justified the Department of Mineral Resources’ use of Section 54’s and enforced safety-related work stoppages.