JOHANNESBURG – Five miners died on Sunday in a fire at a South African copper mine operated by unlisted Phalaborwa Mining Company, the company said in a statement.
Safety is a huge issue in South Africa’s deep and dangerous mines and increasingly a focus for investors. A spate of deaths at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold operations, including a seismic event that killed seven miners in early May, has highlighted the risks they face.
Palabora said the latest incident occurred in the early hours of Sunday at one of its underground conveyor belts, and that mine management, government officials, and organized labor were on the scene investigating.
South Africa is not a major copper producer and most fatal accidents occur in its deep-level gold and platinum mines.
With 54 mining deaths having been recorded since the start of 2018, concerns have been raised about safety measures within the sector and the need clamp down on irresponsible mine owners.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Monday said that South Africa’s mine health and safety act should be amended to reduce fatalities.
“The number of fatalities in the mining sector has reached crisis levels and something needs to be done to intervene. The federation is calling on President Cyril Ramaphosa to personally intervene and take tangible steps to stop the mining fatalities. It is clear that the Minerals Council is not willing to improve the safety of the mining sector. The mining sector cannot be allowed to maim and kill workers with impunity. All those responsible for mine fatalities are held accountable and possibly prosecuted,” Cosatu’s spokesperson Sizwe Pamla said.
Mineral Resources Department said that it will be probing these deaths.
On May 10 this year, Cosatu and NUM picketed outside the offices of the Chamber of Mines calling on the mining body reduce the loss of life in the sector.
Limpopo police this morning said that they were investigating the death of six miners.
“The cause of this incident is still not clear at this stage but police investigations in conjunction with other role players are continuing,” police said.