S. Africa's Miners to Protest over Safety


Reuters, Agnieszka Flak

South Africa's powerful National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) will hold a one-day protest on Saturday over safety in the North-West province, which could affect some mining operations in the area.

The union said on Tuesday that similar protests will be held in other provinces in the coming months, although the extent of those will depend on the severity of local safety concerns.

The protests are scheduled to lead up to a national one-day protest in September or October.

North-West Province is home to many of the country's platinum mines and some gold operations.

"The National Executive Committee has noted with great concern the increased rise of fatalities in the mining industry, especially gold and platinum," Frans Baleni, the NUM's general secretary, told reporters.

He said mine fatalities had risen 27% in the first quarter of this year compared with last year, in line with government figures.

While some operations may be affected by the Saturday protest, he said, the impact during the nationwide event would be bigger. "It will be a total shutdown."

He also said the union, South Africa's main mining union, would call on other smaller labor groups to participate in the national action later this year.

Baleni said the union would call off the national protest only if companies guaranteed a zero-fatality track record.

South Africa, which has the world's deepest gold mines, has a dire safety record compared with the industrialized world, and deaths have led to temporary closure of mines, denting output.

Some South African gold mines are nearing depths of 4,000 meters, making access and drilling dangerous in harsh conditions in which rock temperatures can reach about 50 degrees Celsius.

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