At the beginning of the month, mines belonging to mining magnate Patrice Motsepe were cast in the spotlight after nine workers were killed. Their deaths followed a rockfall which triggered a fire at Harmony Gold’s Doornkop mine.
The fatalities sparked outrage, with the Congress of SA Trade Unions calling for a probe into the deaths.
“The department of mineral resources… [should] conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the accident, identify the causes, and assess whether there was any negligence on the part of the mine management,” Cosatu spokesman Patrick Craven said at the time.
The Economic Freedom Fighters said mining bosses were to blame.
“These deaths, like many in the mining industry, are preventable and, therefore, should be seen not as accidents but murder for profits,” EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said.
In a bid to compensate for the lives lost, Motsepe pledged R75,000 towards the education of each child of the nine miners.
In the same week, two more Harmony Gold mineworkers were killed in separate accidents — one at the Kusasalethu mine in North West and the other at Joel mine in the Free State.
Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs said the deaths were unacceptable.
In the following week, a group of around 200 illegal miners were trapped in an abandoned mine shaft in Benoni, on the East Rand.
As some of them were rescued they revealed the ruthless world of gangs and robbers existing underground. A rival group of illegal miners had reportedly thrown boulders down a shaft, trapping the other group underground, and stealing their gold. Two men were killed.
Agence France-Presse quoted Hawks spokesman Paul Ramaloko as saying that the men died when a rock fell on them, and that one body remained pinned beneath it. Miners who were rescued from that shaft were arrested and charged with illegal mining. Many others, however, remained underground, fearing arrest.