SA mine accident kills nine Impala Platinum workers

JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The world’s second-largest platinum producer, Impala Platinum (Implats), on Tuesday confirmed that nine mineworkers had died in an underground accident at its Rustenburg mine. Implats recovered the bodies of seven employees who had been missing following Monday’s fall-of-ground incident in one of the mechanised panels at its No 14 shaft throughout Monday night.

On Monday, two dead workers were found, while rescuers searched through the night to locate the other employees.

“We are devastated at this major tragedy. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of our employees at this time,” Implats CEO David Brown said.

The Department of Mineral Resources said that all mechanised operations using the board-and-pillar mining system at Implats had been stopped until an investigation could be concluded.

Implats spokesperson Alice Lourens confirmed that this included the No 14 shaft, a part of the No 12 shaft, as well as some other shafts that were under development.

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu expressed her condolences to the families. According to a statement, Shabangu and the director-general of the Mineral Resources department, Advocate Sandile Nogxina, were expected to visit the mine on Tuesday.

An investigation into the incident had been launched, but Lourens could not say how long the investigation was expected to take. She noted, however, that it would be an “in-depth” investigation.

About 700 oz/d of platinum production would be lost with all the mechanised sections closed, said Lourens.

More than 100 people have died in South Africa’s mining industry this year, and the latest fatal accident sparked an outcry from labour unions demanding that companies improve safety.

According to the current mortality rate, one mineworker dies in South Africa every second day, trade union Solidarity said.

“South African mining is a safety nightmare, with accidents just waiting to happen. Although accidents repeatedly take place due to reasons beyond the control of mining companies, as in the case of seismic activities, poor safety decisions play a significant part in mining deaths,” commented Solidarity deputy general-secretary Dirk Hermann.

Trade union federation Cosatu also slammed the country’s mining industry’s safety record, and said it demanded a “rigorous and thorough” investigation into the accident.

“This tragedy is further evidence that the number of accident in our mines is still far too high. Safety is not being given the priority it demands and the mining companies must to more to turn their fine words about improving their safety record into action in the mines, so as to end the carnage which is still taking place.

The ruling African National Congress (ANC) called on mining companies to do a “serious introspection” into adherence to safety standards.

“If mining companies are committed to the implementation of international best practice when it comes to mine safety, we are concerned that – compared to mines in the United States, Canada and Australia – South African mines have a relatively high fatality rate,” the ANC said in a statement.


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