Lonmin shuts shaft after sixth miner dies

Lonmin will suspend mining today to investigate safety practices at its underground operations after fatalities increased.

The London-based firm had shut a shaft at Marikana that accounted for between 5 percent and 6 percent of production yesterday after a sixth worker died since the start of the financial year last October, chief executive Ian Farmer said yesterday. That is double the number of fatalities in the previous fiscal year.

While mining companies in South Africa suspend work in accident areas as investigations are carried out, inspectors can order a wider and longer shutdown of operations as the government seeks to reduce fatalities in the industry. Mine deaths soared 27 percent to 38 in the first quarter from a year earlier, the Department of Mineral Resources said.

Farmer said: “There isn’t a simple answer” for the increase in deaths at Lonmin. He added that all of the incidents were “completely unrelated”.

Lonmin had had “probably the best safety record in the platinum industry in the last few years, and suddenly things have gone awry”.

While Lonmin could not estimate any impact on annual output or sales, April would be a “poor” production month, Farmer said.

“We have to take a step back and see what to do differently,” he added.

Shares fell 1.89 percent to R181.94 on the JSE yesterday.



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