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Employees of the mining department at the Husab Mine in the Namib Desert have down tools and stopped mining activities until such time that the pit in which they work is declared safe by the relevant authorities after explosives and detonators were left unattended in the mining area.
According to the information and public relations officer of the Mine Workers Union of Namibia, Theofilus Theofilus, about 500 workers in the mining department stopped working on Monday and on Tuesday morning a petition letter addressed to the Chief Executive Officer of Swakop Uranium, Mr. Cai Yusheng, was handed to the management at the mine.
At the heart of the labour revolt is the total disregard for Namibian law which governs the use of explosives on mines along with discriminatory and unfair practices towards local employees by the Chinese management of Swakop Uranium.
In the petition letter, written under the auspices of the Mine Workers Union of Namibia, employees claim that their safety is put at risk on a daily basis because f the mishandling and mismanagement of explosives in the mining department.
Another grievance of Namibian employees of Swakop Uranium is that the Chinese expatriates are undermining Namibian law and the authority of local safety experts which led to the latest life threatening situation.
The petition letter reads as follows:
Swakop Uranium (SU) employees’ safety is at risk and compromised by the company top management (exco level) for contracting an incompetent Chinese contractor to carry out the drilling and blasting activities at the Mine.
This letter serves to inform you of our safety concerns and loss of trust in the drilling and blasting Contractor, i.e. Beifang Mining Services cc. We have learnt with dismay that a number of safety High Potential Incidents (HPI’s) related to the use and handling of explosives on site are happening but no firm action is taken from your office to address Beifang’s non-compliances, yet you are so fast to suspend mining operation because an operator drove over the safety berm while driving fatigued.
Under your management it is very easy to terminate a contract for a local security company for non-conformance but turn a blind eye on issues that involve the Chinese expatriates and companies contracted by Swakop Uranium.
Mr. Cai, misconduct is misconduct, and non-compliance is non-compliance whether the transgressor is Namibian or Chinese. Under your management, the definition of safety compliance is when CNI23, a Chinese welding contractor injured our country man but the incident gets concealed.
Under your management fairness and consistency is when our country man falls 8 meters and no production stoppage in the Processing Plant and the country man losses his job, as opposed to the three Chinese expatriates who went inside the ball mill which was barricaded off and locked out (NO ENTRY) without notifying the area responsible person, almost got crushed up as the mill was about to be started up, but no action taken against them.
Under your management, compliance is when a Chinese contractor doing experiments with explosives to realize their dream of taking over all drilling and blasting activities across the country, or when your fellow countryman handles the explosives illegally while in possession of a cellphone device which is prohibited by the Explosives Act of 1956 and no action is taken against him, in addition he has the audacity to make derogatory comments such as “fuck the Namibian Laws” towards the competent, legally and authorized appointed person.
All in all, Mr. Cai, your office lacks transparency and care for our people. For instance, Beifang Mining Services cc has a bad track record in terms of safety and quality compliance since inception but you continue to award them the drilling and blasting tender (through a questionable tendering process) for another five years term to exploit our people and take all the money to china.
Mr. Cai, we would like to remind you that Chapter 4 of the Namibia Labour act 11 of 2007 clearly stipulates that the employer has an obligation to provide a safe and healthy environment for the employees, but yet you are failing to remove the Chinese contractors who are putting the safety of our people at risk and furthermore condoning non-compliance with the safety standards.
Below is the List of some random safety and quality incidents related to explosives and blasting activities carried out by Beifang Mining Services cc to confirm our observations as logged on the Company (SU) Safety system (SAP):
• On the 17th February 2019 – an incident involving a buffalo booster primed with two live detonators was discovered on block 2B17D059 by an excavator operator while busy preparing for a drill block on the pillar crest.
• On the 16th February 2019 – an incident occurred while an excavator operator was busy doing final wall scaling. The operator discovered a buffalo booster primed with two live detonators in zone two extension two trim block which was almost loaded out.
• On the 12th of February 2019,– a High Potential Incident happened in pit zone one, whilst hydraulic shovel #02 was loading haul truck #100, a detonation occurred at the loading face after a shovel bucket came into contact with the primed detonator and set off the booster resulting in the detonation. According to the Company (SU) management, this incident was reported to the Chief Inspector of Mines (CIM) as per regulation. However, our concern is that if that’s true, on what basis was the operations at the Mine not stopped given that this incident had potential to cause multiple fatalities. Incident Number 40002524.
• On the 23rd February 2018 – whilst maintenance crew were busy working on Rope Shovel #02 track pads before the blast, their supervisor came and enquired about the scheduled blast and the progress on the work. In that moment the blast went off the whole crew was in the pit. This is unacceptable in managing explosives and blasting operations.
• Another incident happened on the 9th of January 2018 when Drill rig #02 drilled a charged hole while being directed by the blaster and the emulsion started to come out.
• On the 2nd of February 2017 – Blast holes charged without MRM consent and verification. Incident number 40001045.
• On the 3rd of September 2016 – Drill rig (Cat MD 6290) DR01, Operator whilst drilling a fresh hole noticed that the chippings were wet and decided to inspect, upon retracting the rod the bit came out with live detonating cord and magnum gel (cartridge). Incident number 40000810.
• On the same date (3rd of September 2016) – A Beifang team member was found charging 20 holes which had water up to one meter in a trim block 2B20D001 with magnum gel cartridges, which are designed for blasting pre–split holes. This was a deviation from the charging plan and also from standard procedure (as holes with water must be charged with emulsion or sleeved ANFO in the absence of emulsion). According to the team member the shortcut was taken because there was no sufficient emulsion to charge the entire block. Incident number 40001286.
• On the 9th of June 2016, – Whilst drill rig (Cat MD 6290) DR2 was drilling a Trim Block (B-row) 7 metres away from the pre-split line, the air from the drill rig (through suspected cracks in the rock mass) flushed out a detonating cord and magnum gel (cartridges) which were barricaded off but poor demarcation standards. Incident number 40000811.
• On the 2nd of November 2016 – Beifang Mining Services operation at HUSAB MINE was temporarily suspended due to poor blasting fragmentation in zone two phase one.
• On the 21st of November 2016 – Beifang Mining Services operation at HUSAB MINE was again suspended due to multiple misfires and poor blasting fragmentation quality.
• On the 18th February 2019 Beifang blasting activities on the Mine were halted and later started up on the 23rd of February 2019 without an impartial assessment report firming up on their competency. To date neither Beifang nor the SU top management is in a position to give assurance to the SU employees that the blocks being mined currently and ore material on the stockpiles have no undetonated explosive devices that could cause another unforeseen detonation which may result into fatalities, serious injuries or equipment damages.
A common underlying issue is that the Chinese expatriates are undermining the authority of local experts therefore safety incidents are happening. For that matter, we are urging the CEO and the board of directors of Swakop Uranium to terminate contractors of all Chinese expatriates who are here just to train, and replace them with locals, transfer all assets to Swakop Uranium for own mining.
Failure to do so will leave us with no choice but to exercise our rights as employees in line with Chapter 4, section 42 of the Namibian labour Act 11 of 2007.
Mr. Cai, you cannot continue to ignore our safety concerns. As a CEO of the Company, you should also consider changing your bossy behaviours towards employees otherwise you will be dealt with in line with the Namibian laws.
In conclusion, we would also like to remind the following employees of Swakop Uranium management of their roles and responsibilities to meet the employees’ expectations with regard to safety, compliance, transparency and consistency in driving the interest of the locals:
• Mr. Angula Kalili (COO),
• Mr. Percy McCallum (Vice President HR) and
• Mr. Gelasius Sechwaco (ER Superintendent)
Please stop your “yes boss, ok sir” type of behaviours and cowardice conduct towards your boss, i.e. Mr. Cai, and advise him objectively and accordingly to make decisions of mutual benefits in order to promote the well being of the investor and the local Namibians.