Ministry investigates BCL mine safety
- 19 deaths registered at BCL mine since 2014 to date
- Ministry to contract independent safety auditor
- BMWU to hold demonstrations against BCL management
Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources (MEWR) Kitso Mokaila announced through a statement that they have initiated investigations on the recent BCL Mine tragedy and will contract an independent auditor to look into safety at the mine.
The statement followed an accident at Phikwe BCL mine involving 10 miners , with four confirmed dead and 6 in critical condition. “It is with great sadness that last night just after 9PM, I was informed of a fatal accident involving personnel transport underground at the BCL mine carrying ten employees who were on their regular shift at the South East Extension. Of the ten, 4 fatalities have been confirmed while six are critical,” the statement read.
BCL management through the Marketing and PR manager, James Molosankwe have issued a statement confirming the accident. According to the statement the cause of the incident is not yet known, but preliminary internal observations indicate that a rope of a General Man Transport (GMT)/ cage snapped while transporting workers at end of shift.
“Investigations internally and by the Inspector of Mines to establish the cause of accident is underway and operations at this shaft have been suspended indefinitely,” it stated.
In an interview with the General Secretary of Botswana Mine Workers Union (BMWU), Moffat Ramokate expressed that they are very disappointed that it had to come to this for the government of Botswana to pay attention to the plight of mine workers at BCL. According to Ramokate as a union they have always tried to reach out to the management of BCL mine and the government to address the issue of safety among others but always received a cold shoulder.
“If only they have taken us seriously and listened when we tried to reach out for them, such events would have been avoided. In May 2014 we petitioned Dr. Akolang Tombale who is the board chairperson on the issue of safety at the mine. Just recently in April 2016 we petitioned minister Mokaila on the problems besieging BCL mine,” he said. He indicated that the recent letter to the minister fully articulated their safety concerns and that they should be attended to urgently but they were told to wait two months for the ministry to carry out investigations.
Ramokate revealed that the safety of workers at BCL is always at stake because the machinery used is not serviced appropriately. He further alleged that workers at the mine not allowed enough rest days.
“We need to take serious action this time around to demonstrate to the relevant authorities that indeed we are concerned. We want BCL management investigated as we believe they are unable to run the mine accordingly,” he said.
He also revealed that since 2014 to date they have registered 18 deaths at BCL mine, a number they consider unacceptably high and are calling for urgent action. MP for Selibe Phikwe West Dithapelo Keorapetse lamented, “Their untimely passing has robbed the the country of productive and patriotic men who contributed immensely to the development of the country. I am aware of how much the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased will miss them, I encourage them to draw on their strength.”
In his statement he added, “ I have in the past raised concerns about the declining levels of Occupational Health and Safety standards at BCL; there have been many deaths and injuries in the recent past and the situation is deteriorating unabated with deleterious impact. No single report, preliminary or full, of an accident has been made public. The management has failed on numerous occasions to account to the nation, the Workers or unions and the people of Selebi-Phikwe on these accidents.”
Ramokate had confirmed that the number of causalities has since increased to five by the time of the interview.