South Africa: 1 700 Workers Start Strike 2.4km Below Harmony Mine (All Africa – January 12, 2017)

About 1 700 miners refused to return to the surface of Harmony Gold’s [JSE:HAR] Kusasalethu mine in the West Rand on Wednesday, with the miner saying they have embarked on an illegal sit-in.

“Harmony Gold confirms that around 1 700 employees are participating in an illegal sit-in at the company’s Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville,” the company said in a statement.

“The sit-in started on Wednesday, January 11 when employees chose not to return to surface at the end of the morning shift. “No formal demands have been made by the participating employees.

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Ontario Labour minister touts mining changes – by Ben Leeson (Sudbury Star – January 13, 2017)

Ontario launched a mining health and safety review in the wake of tragedy, but provincial labour minister Kevin Flynn had a good-news story to tell during his stop in Sudbury on Thursday. Flynn visited the Nickel City to mark the implementation of new requirements to improve health and safety of workers in mines, which became effective on Jan. 1.

“Today was really an announcement of what we have been able to accomplish so far and we’re seeing the fruits of what was done in the mining review a few years back, when everybody had a sense of optimism, like ‘It looks like we’ve done a good job here; let’s start implementing the recommendations,’ ” Flynn, the MPP for Oakville, said on Thursday afternoon, shortly before speaking at a Greater Sudbury Chamber of Commerce lunch.

New requirements the minister highlighted on Thursday include:

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Labour honours Sudbury heroes – by Carol Mulligan(Sudbury Star – September 3, 2016)

Two Sudbury labour heroes have been inducted into the 2016 Ontario Federation of Labour Honour Roll, just in time for Labour Day. Nickel Belt New Democrat MPP France Gelinas announced the names of the inductees this week, commending both men for their efforts to improve the lives of working people.

Homer Seguin, who died in April 2013 at 79, continues to be a legend in the labour movement, said Gelinas. “So many sick and injured workers, as well as their spouses and families, were able to get compensation because of his activism.

“Every workplace in Ontario is safer because of Mr. Seguin, I miss him very much,” said Gelinas. Seguin was a former president of United Steelworkers Local 6500 and long-time staff representative with United Steelworkers. He is well known for his work to better working conditions for people in Elliot Lake’s uranium mines.

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Miners recall use of black powder during employment – by Lindsay Kelly (Northern Ontario Business – July 12, 2016)

Danny Hway vividly remembers the impact McIntyre Powder had on his father, Nicholas, who worked at Timmins’ McIntyre Mine for 47 years. At home, his dad wouldn’t speak of it, but he didn’t need to. His grim appearance at the end of every shift did the talking for him.

“He’d come home and his hands were black all the time, and any exposed skin was black,” Danny recalled. “He’d be coughing all the time and, blowing his nose, it was black all the time. He didn’t really want to talk about it — (that’s) life, right?”

Nicholas was one of thousands of miners across the North who were required to inhale the finely ground aluminum dust as a condition of their employment. But for him the stakes were higher than for most: preparing the powder for dissemination was his job.

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Powder in mines linked to disease – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – February 15, 2016)

Intake clinics to be held in Timmins in May could produce data showing a link between a deadly powder used in mines for more than 35 years and the incidence of neurological disease in miners.

United Steelworkers Local 6500 is working with Janice Martell of Elliot Lake on what she calls the McIntyre Powder Project, a campaign she began in 2014. Martell is convinced her father, Jim Hobbs of Massey, contracted Parkinson’s disease from the aluminum dust he breathed while working in Elliot Lake’s uranium mines.

Canisters of aluminum dust, produced by McIntyre Mine in Timmins, were sold to mining companies and used to fog dries or change rooms for miners as well as some areas underground.

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Coal miner black-lung disease resurgence in Queensland to face Senate inquiry – by Jonathan Hair (Australian Broadcasting Corporation – February 11, 2016)

A Senate inquiry will investigate the sudden reappearance of the deadly coal miners’ disease known as black lung.

Coal workers’ pneumoconiosis, or black lung, is a condition caused by breathing in excessive levels of coal dust.

Until recently, it was thought to have been eradicated from Australia. But late last year, the ABC revealed the disease had made a comeback.

Six Queensland coal mine workers have recently been diagnosed with the deadly condition.  Several of these victims worked in mines in Queensland’s Bowen Basin.

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[Ontario] Province seeks input on proposals stemming from mining review – by Ben Leeson (Sudbury Star – November 28, 2015)

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

Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn says the provincial government intends to act on all recommendations by the Mining Health, Safety and Prevention Review Final Report, beginning with a series of proposed amendments presented for consultation on Thursday.

Proposed amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Ac including the introduction of new requirements for mines and mining plants to conduct risk assessments and have formal traffic management programs, the strengthening of existing requirements for water management and ground control, and the updating of training requirements for surface diamond drill operators.

“What I think it is is proof positive that all the work that went into the mining review was time well-spent,” Flynn said.

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[Sudbury mining] Death casts pall over conference – by Harold Carmichael (Sudbury Star – October 25, 2015)

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

The death last week of a miner at Glencore’s Nickel Rim South Mine cast a shadow Sunday evening over the start of an international conference on mining safety which is now being held in Greater Sudbury – and in Canada for the first time ever.

Not only was a minute of silence observed by the speakers and more than 60 delegates on hand at the Vale Cavern at Science North, but the death of Richard Pigeau also drew mention in several speakers’ addresses, including one by Ontario Minister of Labour Kevin Flynn.

“Ontario is one of the safest jurisdictions in all of America in which to work and we know the mining industry continues to be one of the safest industries,” he said. “But it was brought home to us workers’ lives can be lost in a matter of seconds … It simply did not have to happen: Every workplace fatality is preventable. People in this room know that. People buy into that. And we need to spread the message.”

Pigeau, 54, who had more than 20 years of mining experience, was killed when he was struck by a piece of equipment on Oct. 20, according to the Ministry of Labour. The mine was shut down for three days as the investigation was conducted.

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GroundUp: Anglo American joins the silicosis fray – by Pete Lewis (Daily Maverick South Africa – October 21, 2015)

Lawyers for gold mining companies ERPM, DRD and Anglo American added their voices on Tuesday to those of their colleagues fighting the silicosis action in the South Gauteng High Court.

Lawyers for the miners are asking the three judges in the court to certify a class action which would enable them to claim damages from the mining companies as a class, instead of each sick former miner having to do so individually.

The application includes a request that 59 mineworkers who have silicosis and/or TB should be accepted as representatives of the wider class of miners affected by the disease and the dependents of deceased miners.

Lawyers for the mining companies are arguing that the class action should not be certified by the court.

Counsel for ERPM and DRD, Advocate Bruce Leech, said the Constitution acknowledged the right of people to join together in class actions in order to get access to the courts if they could not take action individually.

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GroundUp Op-Ed: Will South Africa’s gold miners get justice? – by Marcus Low (Daily Maverick South Africa – October 12, 2015)

The landmark silicosis class action lawsuit in South Africa has thrown up some similarities between the history of the country’s gold mines and the violent history of the rubber trade in the Congo. Over decades, South Africa’s gold mines systematically exposed their mostly poor and black workers to dangerous levels of silica dust knowing it would kill them.

In King Leopold’s Ghost, the historian Adam Hochschild uncovers the horrors committed in the Belgian Congo in the years before and after 1900. It is a history of slavery, murder and mutilation – anyone who’s seen the pictures of piles of cut-off hands cannot but be horrified by it.

Rather than just focusing on “the horror”, Hochschild zooms in on the courageous individuals who stood up against this cruelty. These are people like George Washington Williams, a black American journalist who travelled to the Congo in the late 1880s, and ED Morel, who dedicated much of his life to exposing the atrocities to the British public and to changing public opinion.

King Leopold’s Ghost recognises and bears witness to the atrocities in the Congo. Atrocities like these are too easily forgotten, too easily reduced to boring facts and figures.

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Sudbury study to examine mental health of miners – by Carol Mulligan (Sudbury Star – July 24, 2015)

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

A research project on the mental health of workers in the mining industry is exactly the type of study Ontario Labour Minister Kevin Flynn would like to see more of in Ontario.

The three-year, $400,000 study, funded by Vale Ltd., is a partnership among the mining company, United Steelworkers and Laurentian University’s Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH).

The goal of the study, called Mining Mental Health, is to collect information to develop strategies to promote strong mental health among workers in Vale’s Ontario operations.

Flynn paid his first visit to a mine earlier this year when he went underground at Vale’s Coleman Mine.

Travelling 5,000 feet below surface “was quite the experience for a city kid,” Flynn told about 100 people in the lobby of Laurentian’s Ben Avery building Thursday.

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(L to R) France Gélinas, MPP Nickel Belt; Jody Kuzenko, Director of Vale’s Ontario Production Services; Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers; Dr. Michel Larivière, clinical psychologist and Associate Director at CROSH; Hon Kevin Daniel Flynn, Ontario Minister of Labour; Dr. Tammy Eger, Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Associate Professor in Laurentian’s School of Human Kinetics
(L to R) France Gélinas, MPP Nickel Belt; Jody Kuzenko, Director of Vale’s Ontario Production Services; Leo Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers; Dr. Michel Larivière, clinical psychologist and Associate Director at CROSH; Hon Kevin Daniel Flynn, Ontario Minister of Labour; Dr. Tammy Eger, Research Chair in Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) and Associate Professor in Laurentian’s School of Human Kinetics

SUDBURY, ON (July 23, 2015) – Today Vale and the United Steelworkers, in partnership with the Centre for Research in Occupational Safety and Health (CROSH) at Laurentian University, announced a groundbreaking new research project on the topic of mental health in the mining industry.

The aim of the 3-year study, called ‘Mining Mental Health’, is to gain vital information in order to develop key strategies that promote the best possible mental health for workers at Vale’s Ontario Operations. In addition, this study will contribute substantially to the body of research to help others in the mining industry and similar sectors to develop evidence-based practices that effectively promote positive mental health.

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Bloodshed Seen If Strike Called at South African Gold Mines – by Paul Burkhardt (Blooomberg News – July 22, 2015)

A pay strike at South African gold companies could result in more violence at the mines, said Andrew Levy, a labor-relations consultant.

The Chamber of Mines, a lobby group representing companies including world No. 3 producer AngloGold Ashanti Ltd., and the four unions representing workers are “far apart” in wage talks, it said July 16. The labor groups are seeking an increase of at least 80 percent in entry-level pay and producers are offering 13 percent at most.

“I think there will be a strike,” most likely led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which speaks for about 30 percent of the employees, Levy said. If operations continue with AMCU on strike, “there will be bodies and there will be bloodshed,” he said.

South African gold producers are looking to avoid a repeat of a strike that crippled platinum companies in the country last year, halting most local mines of the world’s three-biggest operators for five months. They also want to avert violence that resulted in at least 44 deaths around Lonmin Plc’s Marikana platinum assets in 2012.

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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.

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New South Africa mine union boss decries ‘apartheid’ wage system – by Ed Stoddard (Reuters U.S. – June 21, 2015)

WESTONARIA, SOUTH AFRICA – The newly elected head of South Africa’s biggest mine union said on Sunday that his members were still being paid “apartheid” wages, signaling a hard line ahead of gold sector wage talks due to start on Monday.

David Sipunzi, formerly a regional leader from the gold-producing Free State province, was elected general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) earlier this month, replacing veteran Frans Baleni.

The leadership shake up has come just ahead of what are expected to be tough negotiations in South Africa’s ailing gold sector, which is grappling with depressed prices, falling production and rising costs.

Speaking to Reuters ahead of a rally in the mining town of Westonaria west of Johannesburg, Sipunzi defended NUM’s demand for wage hikes of around 80 percent for its lowest-paid members, who make between 5,000 rand ($410) and 6,000 rand monthly.

“We expect them to meet our demands. Eighty percent of just over 5,000 rand is not too much. The CEOs are raking in millions. But the indications are that they are going to plead poverty,” he said.

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