Blast at Harmony Mine Kills Three

JOHANNESBURG—Three mine workers investigating a possible fire were killed and two others seriously injured in an underground explosion at one of Harmony Gold Mining Co.’s mines in South Africa, the company said Friday.

The explosion occurred about 2,013 meters below the surface late Thursday at the Phakisa mine near the town of Odendaalsrus in the central Free State province.

Management halted operations at the mine and are working to make the area safe, said Esha Brijmohan, a spokeswoman for the company. Investigations to determine the cause of the fire will begin when the area is safe, she added.

The explosion was the second incident at Phakisa in a week after a rockfall about 2,100 meters underground killed a worker early last Saturday.

The explosion happened while employees were investigating a suspected fire in an underground raise, Harmony said. The company, one of South Africa’s largest gold producers, said management and officials from the Department of Mineral Resources worked through the night on rescue operations. The two injured employees are being treated in a local hospital, and all other workers underground at the time of the explosion have been accounted for and are safe, Harmony said.

“At this stage, we cannot comment on production,” Ms. Brijmohan said. “Our primary concern is for the families of the deceased and the injured employees.”

Phakisa came into production in the 2008 financial year and comprises a single shaft system. The mine produced 345,000 kilograms of gold in the three months through March.

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