BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) – A world leader in gold mining recorded its 21st death this year because the South African company puts profits ahead of safety, Sibanye Gold Limited shareholders said Thursday in a federal class action.
Represented by the Rosen Law Firm, lead plaintiff Kevin Brandel filed his suit in Brooklyn just two days after Bloomberg reported on Sibanye’s 21st mining death in 2018.
Sibanye “accounts for nearly half of the 46 people reported killed at South African mines in 2018 and is already the subject of an investigation by the chief inspector of mines,” Bloomberg reported, as quoted in the complaint.
Alleging two counts under the federal Exchange Act, the class says Sibanye’s misrepresentations to U.S. securities regulators about its safety compliance caused its statements about business, operations and prospects to be “materially false and misleading.”
In addition to its Driefontein mine in South Africa, where at least eight workers have been killed since May, Sibanye operates in the United States and Zimbabwe. Sibanye is the largest individual producer of gold in South Africa and one of the top producers in the world.
The class notes that Sibanye shares closed at $2.51 a share after Bloomberg reported on the company’s 21st death on June 26. This was a drop of 10.99 percent, according to the complaint, which notes that shares fell again by more than 8 percent when Bloomberg reported that Citigroup had downgraded its recommendation on Sibanye’s stock from buy to neutral.
“We find it difficult to recommend that investors should buy a company with a track record like this, both from an environmental, social and governance perspective, as well as the underlying investment risks that it holds,” Citi analysts Johann Steyn and Shashi Shekhar said Wednesday, as quoted by Bloomberg.
In an earlier report on Sibanye’s mounting death count, The Mercury quoted workers as saying that they had been forced to work in an abandoned Kloof Ikamva shaft in Westonaria where “they choked to death from a combination of gas and poor ventilation.”
This article, which is quoted in the complaint, goes on to report that Sibanye suspended a supervisor and an overseer who refused to send their teams into the dangerous Kloof Ikamva shaft.
The Mercury also reported on seven workers who were killed at Sibanye’s Driefontein operations in May due to a “seismic event,” according to the article.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union told The Mercury the Sibanye mines had become “killing fields.”
Sibanye meanwhile pledged to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in 2016 that it is committed to keeping employees safe.
“The safety, health and wellbeing of our employees, the most vital of our stakeholders, is paramount,” Sibanye said, according to the complaint. “In addressing these three aspects, our approach is based on Sibanye Stillwater’s CARES values –commitment, accountability, respect, enabling and safety – and our safety, health and wellbeing tree.”
Sibanye allegedly called safety “paramount” as well in a 2017 form.
The company did not return a request for comment Thursday, nor did Rosen Law attorney Phillip Kim, who signed the complaint.