CAPE TOWN– Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation Jeff Radebe has called on South Africa’s mining sector to take very strict precautionary measures to ensure that miners are safe underground.

Last Wednesday night, nearly 1,000 mine workers were trapped underground at the Sibanye Gold Mine in Theunissen, in Free State Province, following an electricity outage after a storm. The miners were brought to the surface on Friday morning.

Addressing the 2018 Mining Indaba Ministerial Symposium here Sunday, Radebe said the incident should never have happened. We must take very strict precautionary measures to ensure that such incidents do not occur in the future. I trust that the mining executives and all other relevant stakeholders will investigate the matter and take punitive measures if there was any act of negligence, he added.

Stressing that lives of the mine workers must come first, the Minister urged indaba delegates to address difficult questions relating to the rapid changes brought about by new innovations in the mining industry.

Radebe also said the increasing rise of electric vehicles was contributing to a global demand for cobalt and the associated plug-in car battery storage solution had boosted the global demand for lithium.

While this is exciting, we must understand what it means for traditional minerals such as those used in our traditional fuel emitting vehicles, [with] platinum being used in catalytic converters to decrease fuel emissions,” he said.

We must ask ourselves how we will manage the impact on jobs as a result of lower demand of the conventional commodities and how companies will deal with the negative impact on the value of their portfolios.”

Radebe said the mining industry had great potential to play a meaningful role in creating a better and more prosperous South Africa in the foreseeable future. In my capacity as the chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) for the Revitalisation of Distressed Mining Communities and Labour Sending Areas, I will do my best to unblock any obstacles to development and steer the sector towards the attainment of our collective vision,” he added.