UPDATE 2-Mineworker dies at De Beers' Finsch mine

Tue Nov 18, 2008 11:24am GMT

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* Worker dies at De Beers' Finsch mine

* Spokesman says mine will not be shut

* Union calls for safety audit to be made public

(Adds detail, background)

JOHANNESBURG, Nov 18 (Reuters) - A mineworker died in an accident above ground at top diamond producer De Beers' (AAL.L) Finsch mine in South Africa and the company said on Tuesday the mine would continue to operate. De Beers spokesman Tom Tweedy confirmed the death and said a full investigation was underway but that mine would not be shut.

"The nature and details of the accident will be the subject of the comprehensive investigation," Tweedy said in an emailed statement.

The Solidarity trade union said in a statement the accident occurred on the surface, when the worker was pinned between a wall and a vehicle following a collision.

The Finsch mine, a highly automated operation, is South Africa's largest underground diamond mine and produced 2.3 million carats of the approximately 15 million carats produced by De Beers in South Africa in 2007.

Mine unions and many other commentators say South Africa, the world's top source of platinum and a major gold producer, has an appalling mine safety record. So far this year about 146 have died in various incidents.

The government has routinely shut down mining operations temporarily after deaths occur, so that companies can probe the cause of the accidents and make safety improvements.

Unions have accused producers of chasing profits at the expense of lives. They want companies to spend even more on safety, but companies fear this may lead to spiralling costs.

The government has launched a nationwide mine audit to examine the level of safety compliance, expected to be presented to the president for review shortly. But Solidarity and other unions have accused the ministry of delaying it on purpose.

"It has already been 15 months since the audit was ordered, and in the meantime its release is being delayed unnecessarily," Solidarity spokesman Jaco Kleynhans said.

"The danger now exists that the findings of the report could become outdated and invalid." (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak, editing by Anthony Barker)

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