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Safety first? Another fatality at Rio Tinto

4 February, 2015A worker was killed at Rio Tinto’s mining operations in Madagascar on 28 January, less than a week after a fatality at Rio Tinto’s minority-owned mine in Indonesia.

A worker operating an excavator next to a tailings pond on the night shift at Rio Tinto’s QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) died on January 28 when his excavator fell into the pond.

Although his colleagues immediately called an emergency line for help, the worker was not located until 17 hours after being submerged in the pond. His body was found outside the cabin of the excavator after the water from the pond was drained.

IndustriALL affiliate FISEMA represents workers at Rio Tinto in Madagascar. FISEMA is raising questions about the cause of the incident, why it took 17 hours to find the deceased worker’s body, why the worker’s body was found outside the cabin, and whether such dangerous work should be carried out at night.

This incident casts doubt on whether Rio Tinto has adequately considered safety of night shift workers as well as having in place appropriate emergency equipment and procedures. We urge Rio Tinto to work closely with FISEMA to identify the causes of this fatality and take all measures necessary to ensure this never happens again.

said IndustriALL Assistant General Secretary Kemal Özkan.

The January 2015 fatalities in Madgascar and at Rio Tinto’s minority-owned Grasberg mine in Indonesia – where 39 workers have been killed over the last two years – calls into question Rio Tinto’s often-stated claim that it puts a high value on worker safety.

“Numerous unions at Rio Tinto around the world have told IndustriALL that Rio Tinto applies health and safety procedures in an arbitrary way; pressures workers to put production before safety; disciplines workers for refusing unsafe work; and does not genuinely address workplace hazards. We demand that Rio Tinto change these practices immediately in order to live up to its safety claims,” stated Özkan.