The job of the miner is still one of the most dangerous in the world, in December several serious incidents took place in China and the Ukraine that caused the death of hundreds of workers.

These are only two amongst the most dramatic cases of recent times, death in a mine is still an everyday fact all around the world. In South Africa, where the mining sector is still very important, there have been almost 200 victims over the last year and has led to the first mobilisation of miners to press for an adequate level of security. The latest slaughter of Chinese coalminers happened in the province of Yunnan and caused 18 deaths and 43 “missing” which can be added to 2.163 dead workers in 1.320 “incidents” in he first seven months of the Chinese year. The mortality rate of the Chinese coal workers is the highest in the world and is directly proportional to the growing energy needs of Chinese industry. The government has issued various regulations to improve the levels of security, but these have been so far to be totally ineffective and represent yet another confirmation of the interests of capital and those of the workers are ever more irreconcilable.

In the Ukraine, repeated gas explosions in the Zasyadko coal mine, one of the largest in the Donbass, led, last November, to 101 deaths and another 5 at the beginning of December. Those incidents are all the more serious if we consider that the plant in question ought to be one of the most modern, secure plants in the Ukraine. Prime Minister Yanukovich, always supported by the economic groups that manage the Zasyadko mine has rejected the proposal of complete closure of the plant because it would be too dangerous for the national steel industry. In that situation the only way to keep workers at the mine is by offering salaries much higher than the average so the risk of losing one’s life or suffering serious injury is set against money, and that is made possible by the very high unemployment rate and poverty in the Ukraine.

In South Africa, last October, 3.200 workers trapped in a gold mine in Elandsrand were saved after a tough struggle, however the incident shed light on the negligence and lack of maintenance. 180 victims that year, 200 last year due to slips, cave-ins gas leaks, mini-earthquakes. Less than the 533 registered in 1995, but still too many for the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) which declared, in December, a strike for safety, the first in its history. (Solidarity, the “white” union, did not join in).

It represents a first timid reaction to an unsustainable situation, however, if the workers do not beyond mere Union logic, they will find it hard to improve their conditions of life. As far as Capital is concerned, safety is just another cost to be kept to the minimum in order to face today’s situation of crisis, the consequences, deadly as they may be, are not considered.