The Congress of South African Trade Unions remembers the three Lily Mine workers Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi who are still trapped underground two years after their container was buried under about 60m of rock and soil. Nkambule, Nyarenda and Mnisi were in a lamp room housed in a shipping container on the surface of the coal mine, when an underground supporting pillar collapsed on February 5, 2016.
We still find it objectionable that these workers are yet to be repatriated and that no one has been held accountable for the accident. COSATU still calls for the prosecution of the responsible parties.
We demand that those found responsible should be held accountable.
The inquiry into the disaster was told that the mine management gave a go ahead for the sill pillars to be mined. Sill pillars are pillars separating the different levels of the mine. The inquiry also heard that Lily Mine had a history of at least four sill pillar failures before the crown pillar collapsed and blocked the entrance to the shaft in 2016.
The fact that the mine management prioritised profits over safety is deeply disturbing. The recent mine accident that saw more than 950 workers trapped underground for more than 24 hours at the Beatrix Mine in Free State is a reminder that government has so far failed to present tangible enforcement mechanisms and hire more inspectors to ensure that mine companies comply with health and safety regulations.
COSATU wants a clear message to be sent to the mining companies that they cannot just focus on profit maximisation and increased mechanisation of the sector, without paying serious attention to safety of the workers. The best way to send this message is for the responsible managers to be prosecuted and sent to prison.
We still demand justice for the Lily Mine workers.