Swakopmund — Swakop Uranium employees have made startling allegations against the mine involving the covering up of almost fatal incidents involving Chinese contractors involved in drilling and blasting.
Employees at the mine say they can easily lose their lives due to the alleged incompetence of the company the leaves detonators lying around.
Workers two weeks ago discovered four live detonators at the mine.
Two were found while an excavator operator was busy preparing for a drill block on the pillar crest. The other two were found while an excavator operator was busy doing final wall scaling.
The detonators are used for blasting to extract uranium in rocks.
Workers also claim that on February 12 a high potential incident happened in pit zone one when a detonation occurred at the loading face after a shovel bucket came into contact with the primed detonator and set off the booster.
Employees have reported eight more high-risk incidents dating back to 2016, some of which could have been fatal, they charged.
Some of the incidents related to explosives and blasting activities have been logged on the Company (SU) Safety System (SAP), according to the employees.
Swakop Uranium vice-president Percy McCallum in a statement issued yesterday said they have stopped operations at the mine to ensure the high potential incidents are fully investigated as safety is of paramount importance.
The disgruntled employees backed by the Mineworkers Union of Namibia (MUN) downed tools and handed a strongly worded petition yesterday morning to the mine's top management during shift change to remove the drilling and blasting contractor from the mine, Beifang Mining Services.
Reading the petition on behalf of his fellow employees, MUN's Swakop Uranium branch chairperson, Timo Katjiuaende, said they want the contractor to be removed from the mine immediately due to growing safety concerns.
He explained that a number of safety high potential incidents (HPI's) related to the use and handling of explosives on site are happening but no firm action has been taken to address Beifang's non-compliances by Swakop Uranium.
"Yet you are so fast to suspend mining operations because an operator drove over the safety berm while driving fatigued. Under your management it is very easy to terminate a contract for a local security company for non-conformance but you turn a blind eye on issues that involve the Chinese expatriates and companies contracted by Swakop Uranium," he said.
The workers also accused the mine of turning a blind eye to the contractor who allegedly does experiments with explosives to realise their dream of taking over all drilling and blasting activities across the country.
"They handle the explosives illegally while in possession of a cellphone device which is prohibited by the Explosives Act of 1956 and no action is taken against him. In addition, he has the audacity to make derogatory comments against Namibian laws when confronted," Katjiuaende said.
He said Beifang Mining Services' safety and quality compliance since inception was always under question but the company was still awarded the drilling and blasting tender for another five years.
Swakop Uranium in response yesterday said they took note of the safety concerns raised by the employees through the union.
"Safety is our first value and as a company we have stopped operations to ensure that high potential incidents are fully investigated. We will also seek the assistance of employees to address any areas requiring actions to apply corrective measures to ensure that they are fully implemented," McCallum said.