Archive | Mining Tragedies

Marikana Miners’ Working Conditions Need Fresh Probe, Vavi Says – by Amogelang Mbatha (Bloomberg News – June 29, 2015)

The former general secretary of the Congress of South African Trade Unions said a fresh inquiry into the circumstances of miners in Marikana area, where at least 44 people died in violence in 2012, is needed to prevent a repeat of the killings.

“A new commission must be established to look at living and working conditions of miners to prevent a Marikana massacre from happening again,” Zwelinzima Vavi said during a debate about the findings by a commission investigating the event in Johannesburg on Monday. Vavi, an outspoken critic of the ruling African National Congress’s economic policies and alleged corruption under President Jacob Zuma, was expelled from the labor federation in March for gross misconduct.

Zuma on June 25 released a report that recommended Police Commissioner Riah Phiyega’s competence to hold office be investigated after 34 miners were gunned down by police near Lonmin Plc’s Marikana platinum mines on Aug. 16, 2012.

The workers had been camping out on a rocky outcrop close to the operations demanding that the company increase their pay to 12,500 rand ($1,020) monthly in a country where about one of every four people is unemployed. Continue Reading →

ANALYSIS: South Africa: Telling the Marikana Story – an Invitation to Look More Closely At What’s in Front of Us – by Bronwyn Law-Viljoen (All – June 26, 2015)

Platinum, a collaboration between London-based writer Jack Shenker and British photographer Jason Larkin, seeks in both content and presentation of text and photographs to remind us that we are after all privileged observers of the events leading up to the massacre of at least 34 mine workers in South Africa’s platinum belt.

Larkin has spent a great deal of time thinking about how to make books and get them into the world. The stories he has covered as a photographer in the last several years have compelled him to think about the politics of art books – who makes them, who distributes them and, most importantly, who can afford them.

Platinum, the second collaboration between Larkin and Shenker, reflects these sensibilities. Larkin’s photographs accompany Shenker’s essay “Marikana”, a wide-ranging analysis of how South Africa got to Marikana, and how this event might come to define the country in years to come. Shenker is unflinching in his criticism of big business and the mining industry, and Larkin’s photographs offer a fairly dispassionate but astute look at the people and the landscape of the platinum belt around Rustenburg.

The publication of these two elements of the story takes the form of a loose-leafed folder of sorts: six posters printed back-to-back in full colour, and the essay — in English and with a translation in isiXhosa by Lulu Mfazwe-Mojapelo – as a separate booklet. All are held together with an elastic band inside a plain card sleeve with the title handstamped on the front. Continue Reading →

S. Africa’s Zuma to release Marikana mine massacre report – by AFP (Yahoo News – June 25, 2015)

President Jacob Zuma was on Thursday due to release the official report into the police killing of 34 South African striking workers at Marikana mine in 2012, his office said.

The report into the shooting was handed to the president on March 31, after more than two years of hearings plagued by delays.

Rights groups and lawyers representing the killed and injured miners have been clamouring since then for Zuma to make the document public.

The president’s office said the report would finally be published after he addresses the nation on public television on Thursday night. The August 16 shooting was the worst violence South Africa has witnessed since the advent of democracy in 1994.

Days after the killings, Zuma set up the Farlam Commission of Inquiry to investigate the events at Marikana, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) northwest of Johannesburg.

The commission was granted powers to suggest names of individuals to be criminally charged. But proceedings were plagued with delays from the start and the deadline was repeatedly extended. Continue Reading →

Journalist burnt to death by mining mafia in Madhya Pradesh (India Today – June 21, 2015)

A 40-year-old local journalist was burnt to death allegedly by three persons, suspected to be closely linked to sand mafia, who set him ablaze apparently over his refusal to withdraw a court case, police said on Sunday.

The burnt body of Sandeep Kothari, who was abducted from Katangi tehsil in Balaghat district two days back, was found lying near railway tracks at Sindi town in Wardha district of east Maharashtra on Saturday night, police said.

Additional Superintendent of Police Neeraj Soni said that Kothari was out of bail for the last two months in a rape case. “His (Kothari’s) body was identified by his brother,” it said.

BSP demanded a CBI probe into the murder, saying the scribe’s family was being “tormented” by the sand mafia in the past as he had “exposed” their activities. Former MLA from Balaghat, Kishore Samrite said Kothari was falsely implicated in more than 12 criminal cases.

“He was externed as he wrote against and also lodged complaints against manganese and sand mafias and other high and mighty people involved in organised crimes. His family too was tormented by mafias,” said Samrite. Continue Reading →

OPINION: South Africa: The Scandal of South Africa’s Sick Miners – by Pete Lewis (All – June 11, 2015)

Human rights lawyers have been engaged for ten years in a bid to secure massive damages for former gold miners who suffer from silicosis and TB. As the case heads for the courts, the mining industry is scrambling to offer its own and much less comprehensive solution.

Too sick to work, cared for by women and families who can barely scratch a living, hundreds of thousands of former gold miners number among the disabled, dying and dead victims of an inadequate compensation system.

This issue, brushed under the carpet during the apartheid era, has become public after 20 years of democracy, against all efforts by the mining companies to keep it buried.

Over the past century, South Africa developed a legislated system for the compensation of workers who are injured at work, or who contract an occupational disease, in line with conventions developed over time by the International Labour Organisation.

Such systems are supposed to provide workers (and their dependent spouses and children) with a lump sum or pension for permanent disability, and lost wages for temporary disability. They are also supposed to cover medical costs of treatment, care, and rehabilitation. Continue Reading →

Ghana Urged to Stop Employment of Thousands of Children at Mines – by Pauline Bax (Bloomberg News – June 10, 2015)

Ghana should better enforce its laws to prevent thousands of children from working at small-scale mines in Africa’s second-largest producer of gold, Human Rights Watch said.

The children work alongside family members or on their own, often to help pay school fees, the New York-based group said on Wednesday in a report based on interviews with mine workers mostly aged 15 to 17 years old. Many said they had been working since the age of 12.

“Ghana’s unlicensed gold mines are very dangerous places where no child should work,” according to the report. “Companies buying gold in Ghana should exert control over their whole supply chain to make sure they’re not benefiting from child labor.”

Small-scale mines employ about 1 million people and account for about 40 percent of total production of gold in Ghana. A majority of the small mines operate without licenses. The work is especially hazardous for children because it involves heavy lifting, sharp tools like shovels and picks, and exposure to mercury, which is poisonous, according to the report. Continue Reading →

Anger and Grief Simmer in Turkey a Year After Soma Mine Disaster – by Ceylan Yeginsujune (New York Times – June 2, 2015)

ELMADERE, Turkey — Through the lace curtains of her window, Beyhan Yilmaz cannot help but see the raw gash of the new coal mine carved through the green hills near her village. She is stung by the sight.

“I used to run away to that hill and have picnics with my husband under the pine trees,” Ms. Yilmaz recalled, with tears trickling down her cheeks. “As if the fact that they destroyed that beauty wasn’t painful enough, now every time I look out the window, I am reminded of the hell where my husband burned to death.”

Ms. Yilmaz, 26, is one of 10 women from Elmadere, in western Turkey, who were widowed by the deadliest industrial disaster in modern Turkish history, the explosion and fire that tore through a coal mine in the nearby town of Soma in May 2014, leaving 301 men dead.

The disaster led to protests in Soma and across Turkey that were broken up by the riot police using rubber bullets and water cannons. The anger here toward the government had barely receded a year later as the widows observed the grim anniversary. Families of victims say that no one has been held accountable and that they have been left to face the future on their own. Continue Reading →

‘Tragic [mining] milestone’ – by Len Gillis (Timmins Daily Press – May 26, 2015)

The Daily Press is the city of Timmins broadsheet newspaper.

BLACK RIVER-MATHESON – It appears Alexie Dallaire-Vincent may be the first woman to die on the job in an underground mine in Ontario. The 22-year-old tram operator at the SAS St. Andrew Goldfields Holt Mine, was killed Saturday afternoon, according to the Ontario Ministry of Labour

It was reported the woman, a native of the Kirkland Lake area, died from injuries after being struck by an ore-haulage car on the 925 level in that mine, located east of Matheson.

A number of local veteran mining inspectors and investigators reached by The Daily Press on Monday said they could not recall a previous incident in which a woman died on the job, working underground in an Ontario mine.

“I’m not sure, to be honest with you, but I do believe that is the case,” said Ministry of Labour district manager Pete Lefebvre, who is also a former mine rescue officer.

The Ontario Ministry of Labour communications office in Toronto could not confirm it, as the ministry does not keep gender-based statistics, said spokesman William Lin. Continue Reading →

South Africa-The Long Read: Marikana massacre: the untold story of the strike leader who died for workers’ rights – by Nick Davies (The Guardian – May 19, 2015)

On 16 August 2012, South African police opened fire on a large crowd of men who had walked out on strike from a platinum mine at Marikana, about 80 miles north of Johannesburg. They shot down 112 of them, killing 34.

In any country, this would have been a traumatic moment. For South Africa, it was a special kind of nightmare, since it revived images of massacres by the state in the old apartheid era, with one brutal difference – this time it was predominantly black policemen, with black senior officers working for black politicians, who were doing the shooting.

In response, President Jacob Zuma appointed a commission of inquiry, chaired by a retired judge, Ian Farlam, which eventually sat in public for a total of 293 days, hearing evidence from miners, their bosses and the police, and reviewing video, audio and paper records of the shooting and of the seven-day strike that preceded it.

At the end of March this year, the commission delivered its report to Zuma, who so far has failed to publish its conclusions. Those who may find themselves accused of colluding in the police action include not only senior figures from the ruling African National Congress but also Lonmin, the British company that owns the Marikana mine. Continue Reading →

Editorial: Renewed focus on mine safety in Ontario (Northern Miner – May 13, 2015)

The Northern Miner, first published in 1915, during the Cobalt Silver Rush, is considered Canada’s leading authority on the mining industry.

A newly released coroner jury’s verdict and recommendations stemming from the two-week inquest into the deaths of two miners at Vale’s underground Stobie nickel mine in Sudbury, Ont., in 2011 has met with wide approval from all players in the tragedy.

Jason Chenier, 35, and Jordan Fram, 26, were killed on June 8, 2011, when a run of muck overcame them while they worked at the 3,000-foot level near the No. 7 ore pass. They were moving muck through a transfer gate when a sudden release of 350 tons of sandy muck and water broke through the gate. Both miners died from smothering and compressional asphyxia, and Chenier also suffered blunt-force injuries.

It turns out a crash gate into the area where the two were working had been left open, so the muck, which had been stuck in the ore pass, came loose and flooded the area.

After pleading guilty to three of six charges in 2013, Vale received the largest Occupational Health & Safety (OH&S) fine ever issued in Ontario for the violations. Continue Reading →

Nigeria: 28 Kids Killed by Lead Poisoning From Gold Mining – by Michelle Faul (Associated Press – May 15, 2015)

LAGOS, Nigeria — Twenty-eight children have died from lead poisoning from illegal gold mining in a remote west-central village, Nigerian health officials said, while doctors still are treating thousands from an earlier outbreak.

Dozens more children are sick in the Rafi area of Niger state and action must be taken quickly if they are not to suffer irreversible neurological damage, Michelle Chouinard, Nigeria director for Doctors Without Borders, told The Associated Press on Friday.

Her organization still is treating children from a 2010 mass lead poisoning, in Zamfara state, that killed 400 kids and left many paralyzed, blind and with learning disabilities because of a three-year delay in government funding for a cleanup.

Chouinard said they have cured 2,688 of 5,451 people infected and hope to complete treatment next year. They have had most success in the worst-affected village of Bagega, where all but 189 of 1,426 people have had the lead leached from their bodies.

Junior Health Minister Fidelis Nwankwo said Thursday all those newly infected in neighboring Niger state are under 5 with 43 percent of the 65 sickened children dying. Continue Reading →

Sudbury family ‘overwhelmed’ by recommendations – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – May 8, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

A coroner’s jury went beyond the eight recommendations jointly submitted at an inquest into the deaths of two men at Vale’s Stobie Mine and added 16 of its own to improve mine safety in Sudbury, in Ontario and throughout Canada.

The three-woman, one-man jury accepted eight recommendations suggested and agreed upon by Vale, United Steelworkers Local 6500, the Ministry of Labour and the families of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram.

The first recommendation was that the Ministry of Labour implement the recommendations of the Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review regarding water management in mines and the internal responsibility system.

The review was struck in December 2013 in response to pressure by families and mine workers for an inquiry into mine safety after the Sudbury men’s deaths. Chenier, 35, and Fram, 26, were killed when a run of muck overcame them while they were working at the 3,000-foot level near the No. 7 ore pass. Continue Reading →

Sudbury should be proud of jury’s work: coroner – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – May 8, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The community owes a debt of gratitude to the work of the jury that made 24 recommendations to make mining safer in Ontario at the inquest into the deaths of two Vale workers. Presiding coroner Dr. David Eden said the issues surrounding the deaths of Jason Chenier and Jordan Fram were complex and of great concern to the community.

The “very well-considered and essential questions” and “thoughtfulness and thoroughness” of the recommendations displayed the highest level of dedication and commitment on the part of the three women and one man who sat on the jury, said Eden.

A fifth juror had to drop out a week into the two-week inquest because of medical reasons. Eden read the recommendations Thursday at the Sudbury Courthouse. “The community that you represent here should be proud of your work,” Eden told the jury.

The jury answered five basic questions that are at the heart of every coroner’s inquest. They determined that Chenier, 35, and Fram, 26, were involved in an accident and were presumed to have died June 8, 2011, about 10 p.m. The men were pronounced dead by the attending coroner early the morning of June 9. Continue Reading →

Inquest: Policies must be acted upon: miner – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – May 4, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The last time Ryan St. George saw Jordan Fram was about a week before the young miner’s death. Both were stopped at an intersection, St. George on his motorcycle and Fram in his new truck.

Fram yelled over to St. George: “Hey, you’re driving a motorcycle with shorts and sandals,” chiding him for not riding safely.

“That was Jordan. He cared about people,” said St. George at the last day of the inquest into the deaths of Fram, 26, and his supervisor Jason Chenier, 35, at Vale’s Stobie Mine.

St. George is a member of United Steelworkers Local 6500, a former miner who represented his union at the coroner’s inquest.

He gave what was one of several powerful closing statements Friday to a three-woman, one-man jury. A fifth juror dropped out a week into the proceedings because of medical reasons. St. George said he believes, like Fram, “that people care about each other. Continue Reading →

Inquest: Jury urged to look at all mines with rec’s – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – April 30, 2015)

The Sudbury Star is the City of Greater Sudbury’s daily newspaper.

The project manager of the Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review urged a coroner’s jury to consider making recommendations that will improve safety throughout all Ontario mines, not just at Vale’s Stobie Mine or at Sudbury mining operations.

Wayne DeL’Orme was the last witness to testify at the inquest into the deaths of Jordan Fram and Jason Chenier on June 8, 2011. Chenier, 35, was a supervisor for Vale and Fram, 26, was a miner. They were killed by a run of tons of muck that had been hung up in the No. 7 ore pass, let go and swamped the 3,000 level near the pass where they were working.

DeL’Orme told the three-woman, one-man jury Thursday that the role of the mining review was to look at all aspects of health and safety in underground mines and recommend ways to improve conditions.

It was prompted by a call for a full-blown mining inquiry after the deaths of the men at Stobie. A group called MINES (Mining Inquiry Needs Everyone’s Support) lobbied for a review, led by Wendy Fram, the mother of Jordan Fram. Thousands of postcards were sent to Labour minister demanding an inquiry. Continue Reading →