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SOUTH AFRICA: AngloGold workers protest SAfrican mine deaths

by James MachariaReuters
October 2nd, 2008

Three workers in South Africa died after three separate mining incidents as miners at AngloGold Ashanti's TauTona mine stopped work over a fatality there last week, union and company officials said on Thursday.

AngoGold (ANGJ.J: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz), Africa's top gold producer, said a worker died at the TauTona mine near Johannesburg when a tunnel collapsed early Thursday morning. Work had stopped in that section to conduct an investigation, the company said.

The continent's third-biggest gold producer, Harmony Gold, (HARJ.J: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) said a worker was killed in a tunnel collapse at its Elandsrand mine, also near Johannesburg on Thursday. It said the section where the miner died was closed for an investigation.

Unions said a third person died on Wednesday of injuries sustained when a rock fell on him at the Rustenburg mine on Sept. 8. Rustenburg is the biggest operation owned by No.1 platinum producer Anglo Platinum, (AMSJ.J: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz) which is a unit of global mining giant Anglo American Plc. (AAL.L: Quote, Profile, Research, Stock Buzz)

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said about 30,000 workers at AngloGold's Savuka mine stopped work for one day on Thursday to protest working conditions after a miner died there last week.

The NUM has been putting pressure on mining companies to take action to prevent workers' deaths. Since last year, when a miner dies, union members at the mine stop work for one day to mark the death and to pressure the company to improve safety.

"The NUM is shocked that while those whose hands stink of workers blood (and) smile all the way to the bank, hundreds of thousand of breadwinners' dependants are left with no food on their tables," NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said.

Some 135 workers have died in South African mines so far this year, compared to 221 in the 2007 calendar year and 200 in 2006.

Mining companies said that closing operations after fatalities, due to government shutdowns or union work stoppages, have led to production losses.

They have promised to make safety a priority. Some companies have shut mines for several months to improve safety measures and have given workers safety training.

The Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) has compiled a report on the safety of South African mines, which is likely to show that mines have poor safety compliance.

The NUM, the country's biggest and mostly black union, and the traditionally white Solidarity union, want the findings released as soon as possible.

The DME said the report may be made public once it has been presented to South Africa's new president, Kgalema Motlanthe.

(Reporting by James Macharia; editing by Karen Foster) 



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