Sibanye-Stillwater accuses union of following ‘agenda’ to harm reputation

Precious metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE:SGL) (NYSE:SBGL) blasted Thursday comments made by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) accusing the company of failing to take precautions two avoid injuries at its mines.

According to the union, a seismic event on May 22 caused a fall of ground at the company’s Ikamva mine, part of Kloof operations, leaving two employees injured. The AMCU also said the previous day a similar incident happened at the Manyano mine, also part of Kloof, where two workers were seriously hurt.

While Sibanye-Stillwater acknowledged the accidents, it said the AMCU’s insinuation that management wilfully put its employees at risk, is part of “a clear agenda” pursued by the union that consist of “… continually making mischievous allegations, and disseminating erroneous and clearly fake information to the media,” which is causing reputational damage for the company.

The insinuation that management wilfully put its employees at risk, is part of “a clear agenda” pursued by the AMCU, says Sibanye-Stillwater.

Chief executive Neal Froneman said the company had confidence in its seismic management systems. The company was “… committed to ensuring a safe working environment for employees and we will not knowingly allow mining to take place where conditions are unsafe” he said.

Safety has become a bone of contention between unions and the company, which has had at least six accidents at its operations this year, some of them with fatal consequences.

Earlier this month, thirteen gold miners were trapped underground at the firm’s Masakhane mine, seven of which died as a result of their injuries.

In February, nearly 1,000 miners got stuck underground for more than 24 hours at Beatrix gold mine, but were found unharmed.

A few days later, two miners died after a section of the Kloof gold operation collapsed. Later that month, another worker lost his life while clearing a blocked ore pass also at the company’s Driefontein gold operation.

South Africa is home to some of the world’s deepest and most dangerous operations. Mine fatalities increased last year for the first time in a decade as companies are having to go deeper in ageing shafts to access additional ore in a country that has been mined commercially for over a century.