Sibanye at the Center of Climbing South African Mine Fatalities

- June 28th, 2018

The total number of fatalities at South African mines has climbed to 47 so far this year, and 21 have occurred at Sibanye-Stillwater’s operations.

Of the 47 deaths that have occurred at South African mines this year, Sibanye-Stillwater (NYSE:SBGL) is responsible for almost half of them, making the last six months the deadliest in the company’s five years of operation, says a Thursday (June 28) Bloomberg report.

As the largest producer of gold in South Africa, Sibanye now faces escalating outrage from the country’s powerful labor unions. In total, 21 of the 47 employee fatalities have occurred at its mines, a number three times higher than the six attributed to Harmony Gold (JSE:HAR).

“[It is] high time the company was placed under curatorship,” said Sahlulele Luzipo, chairperson of parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources, in regards to the deaths and the miner’s actions following the accidents.

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The growing outrage has now been paired with a class-action lawsuit against the miner on the behalf of shareholders who want to recover losses suffered following the spate of deaths. Sibanye’s share price has declined sharply while they have been happening.

On Tuesday (June 26), the most recent fatality occurred at Sibanye’s Khomanani mine, bringing the death toll on the company’s premises to 21 and further supporting the shareholders’ decision to sue the miner.

That death comes on the heels of five mineworkers passing away earlier in June when they entered an abandoned shaft at Sibanye’s Kloof Ikamva mine. They were exposed to lethal amounts of gas and heat.

“To date, Sibanye-Stillwater operations are responsible for 20 of the 45 fatalities reported since the beginning of the year. It therefore cannot be business as usual in how the regulator attends to this situation,” said Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe following the early June deaths.

Despite the growing number of fatalities and the introduction of a lawsuit, Sibanye continues to maintain that it is following safety procedures and looking out for its employees.

“Safety is a primary focus for Sibanye-Stillwater and there is clear evidence that safe operations are the most productive operations,” said James Wellsted, a spokesman for the company.

Due to the spike in Sibanye’s death toll, the local industry is on pace for the first back-to-back increase in fatalities records going back to 1994. Although 47 is still well below the 553 deaths recorded in 1995, the trend has spurred questions about the future of precious metals mining in South Africa.

As of 1:30 p.m. EST on Thursday, Sibanye was trading at ZAC 800.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Nicole Rashotte, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.  

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