26/06/2018 14:08 SAST | Updated 26/06/2018 14:08 SAST

Death Toll At Sibanye-Stillwater Rises As Another Miner Dies

Unions have called for mine bosses to be held criminally liable for the deaths of mineworkers.

Sibanye Gold's Masimthembe shaft in Westonaria. April 3 2017.
Mike Hutchings / Reuters
Sibanye Gold's Masimthembe shaft in Westonaria. April 3 2017.

Another miner has died at a Sibanye-Stillwater mine. The incident took place at its Driefontein operations near Carltonville, News24 reported.

Mine spokesperson James Wellsted said a 35-year-old winch operator had entered a gully while busy cleaning during the night shift, when he was hit by a scraper. "He was fatally injured."

Amcu on Tuesday called for the spate of deaths at Sibanye –Stillwater to be labelled a crime against humanity.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) called for laws to be changed so that mine bosses can be prosecuted.

"The Mine Health and Safety Act must be amended so that mine bosses [can] also be held responsible. They must be prosecuted and sent to jail," NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said.

He said the union was on its way to the mine to assist with investigations.

"It is a very worrying situation at Sibanye, and it shows that the company does not care about the mineworkers and the health and safety precautions," Mammburu said

Wellsted said the death was still under investigation.

The death toll at Sibanye-Stillwater's operations this year alone stands at over 20, close to half of the fatalities in the entire mining industry.

This comes just days after the company announced that it would be funding an independent study by a visiting academic at Wits University, to develop practical recommendations for improving safety conditions at the company's miners, according to Mining Weekly.

Sibanye-Stillwater also appointed Dr Kobus de Jager as its corporate head of safety to review the company's safety management.

In May, 13 miners were trapped underground at Sibanye-Stillwater's Masakhane mine at its Driefontein operations. Seven of the miners died, while the other six were admitted to hospital.

Rescue operations went on for two-and-a-half days before the last three miners trapped underground were rescued. At the time, Wellsted said a "thorough" investigation by the mine's management and the department of mineral resources was underway.

In February, 955 miners were trapped underground when there was a power outage due to a storm. There were no serious injuries, but the incident sparked outrage from Parliament's mineral resources committee, which said management should have had a backup plan in place in case of emergencies like this.

A few days later, two miners died underground at the Kloof Ikamva shaft — the same one in which the latest death occurred. Wellsted said a seismic event was behind those deaths.

Questions have been raised about Sibanye-Stillwater's management being "stretched", although Wellsted denied this at the time, according to Business Day. Reportedly, there is a team of just 55 people overseeing more than six operations in South Africa.

There have been 73 fatalities at Sibanye-Stillwater, it is claimed, since it was founded six years ago.