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ArcelorMital Accident: 3 bodies found as union push company to expand investigation

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The company has launched an investigation into the cause of the incident.

  • Part of a 90-meter pile at the ArcelorMittal plant in Vanderbijlpark failed fell into the coke battery control room Wednesday morning.
  • The bodies of three missing employees, who were on duty in the control room, have been found.
  • The Numsa and Solidarity unions are calling for a wider investigation, including previous incidents and the condition of structures.

The bodies of three missing ArcelorMittal employees have been found, the company confirmed on Thursday.

The three employees suffered injuries sustained in an incident at the company’s Vanderbijlpark Works on Wednesday morning. A portion of a 90-meter stack on one of the operation coke batteries failed and fell over the coke battery control room in which the three employees were working.

“On behalf of the board, management and staff of ArcelorMittal South Africa, our heartfelt condolences and deepest sympathies go to the families and colleagues of the deceased,” said Kobus Verster, CEO of ArcelorMittal South Africa.

“We are extremely grateful to our qualified emergency personnel, who arrived on site immediately after the incident and worked day and night to complete the recovery operation with the support of local emergency services.”

Employee families have been informed and are receiving the necessary support from the company.

The company has launched an investigation into the cause of the incident. All relevant authorities have been notified and have been on the ground. The company said it would fully cooperate with their investigations.

“The safety of our employees and contractors remains our main concern. This is an absolute tragedy and we will conduct a full and thorough investigation to understand what happened in order to avoid anything like this happening again at ArcelorMittal South Africa, “said Verster.

The National Union of South African Metal Workers (Numsa) said in a statement Thursday that it mourns the loss of three workers. The union describes how their families had waited and anxiously hoping their loved ones would be found alive. Numsa is calling on the Department of Employment and Labor to launch “a thorough and thorough investigation” into the cause of the incident. The union claims that one of its department stores was previously shut down “for exposing the company’s poor health and safety protocols”.

The union also accuses the company of “dragging its feet” with the rescue operation. The company says it informed Numsa throughout the rescue operation. The company says a claim by Numsa that there was an explosion before part of the pile collapsed is not true.

Fin24 previously announced that Vanderbijlpark’s works are the largest supplier of flat steel products in sub-Saharan Africa, where raw materials such as iron ore, coke and dolomite are loaded into blast furnaces where they are converted to liquid iron.

ArcelorMittal South Africa ceased operations at all of its blast furnaces as required by initial Covid-19-related blocking regulations and completely shut down production for the first time in the history of the country’s integrated steel industry. However, when operations were allowed to resume, the company decided to temporarily operate the second blast furnace at its Vanderbijlpark Works as demand was expected to be low. During this time, Vanderbijlpark Works continued to operate with an explosion furnace until the start of the second explosion furnace in December 2020 in response to the sharp increase in demand.

Willie Venter, deputy secretary general for the metals and engineering sector at Solidarity, claims this is the third incident of its kind at South Africa’s ArcelorMittal Vanderbijlpark plant in the last 12 months. According to him, the latest event “casts doubt on the integrity of the buildings and structures of this aging plant.”

Solidarity called on the company not to limit its investigation to this particular incident, but also to include other similar events that occurred in its operations.

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