JOHANNESBURG – Lead researcher at Bench Marks Foundation, David van Wyk, says mining companies need to be held liable for tragedies at abandoned and unsecured mines.
The comments come as South African authorities scramble to recover 28 bodies in a ventilation shift at an old mine in the Free State.
It’s understood the bodies of the Basotho nationals have been there for more than a month, with gas leaks underground stalling recovery efforts.
Three bodies have already been retrieved by other suspected illegal miners, bringing the death toll up to 31.
The mine where the 31 illegal miners died previously belonged to Harmony Gold and was last operational in the 1990s.
It’s understood the company didn’t rehabilitate the mine or seal it off, making it a breeding ground for illegal mining.
Van Wyk said that mining companies must carry some blame for this recurring issue.
“The whole area is like a Swiss cheese of holes, everywhere there are holes. So why is the department of mineral resources and the portfolio committee not asking mining companies to behave responsibly, according to their social and labour standards, according to their environmental impact assessments and according to their mining closure standards? Why is that shaft still open?”
Chairperson of Parliament’s committee on mineral resources and energy, Sahlulele Luzipo, said that the country also needed to seriously look at tightening its porous border s.
“We’ll require also that our neighbouring countries also assist in this exercise.”
Investigations are yet to determine the circumstances of the tragedy.