In the last five years, 15 mineworkers at Bamangwato Concessions Ltd (BCL) mine in Botswana have died on duty in separate accidents. Despite numerous appeals to government to improve safety at the state-owned mine, conditions are in fact deteriorating.
The BCL mine employs around 5,000 employees, of which over 3,200 are union members represented by IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Botswana Mine and Allied Workers Union (BMWU).
Frustrated at the government’s inaction the BMWU staged a demonstration on 6 July 2016, in Botswana’s capital Gaborone where union leader Jack Tlhagale handed over a petition to the country’s vice-president Mokgweetsi Masisi.
“The mine has been a problem for a long time - security and productivity have declined. Despite the mineworkers’ appeals to the company management and the government there has been no improvement. The company also threatens to retrench many of our members and close some of the shafts,” said Tlhagale.
The BMWU’s petition is clear and calls on the government to:
- Enforce the Mines, Quarries, Works and Machinery Act;
- Implement the International Labour Organization’s Convention 176 on Health and Safety in mines; and
- Save the mine and jobs
Vice-president Masisi assured BCL mineworkers that the government would investigate the declining safety issues: "We don't want employees to feel unsafe at work. We don't want a situation where miners go to work asking themselves whether they are going to be able to come back to their families," said Masisi.
"This is simply not enough. It is not only workers’ livelihoods that are at stake but also their lives. If the government continues to postpone action on the deteriorating safety conditions at the mine, it will certainly result in more deaths,” said IndustriALL general secretary, Jyrki Raina.
IndustriALL calls on the Botswana government to involve the BMWU in measures to ensure that adequate health and safety standards be put in place immediately to avoid any further preventable accidents at the BCL mine. It is equally important to include the union in the development of a plan for the BCL mine to become economically viable and ensure job security for the workers.
In a letter to Botswana’s Vice-president, IndustriALL calls the Government to involve the BMWU in the implementation of measures to ensure that adequate health and safety standards be put in place immediately to avoid any further preventable accidents at the BCL mine. It is equally important to include the union in the development of a plan for the Bamangwato Concessions Ltd. (BCL) mine to become economically viable but also to ensure job security of the workers.