THE South African government has instructed Impala Platinum (Implats) to commission an independent investigation into an underground accident last month which claimed the lives of 13 miners.
This follows completion of an in loco (in place) inspection report completed by the department of mineral resources and energy (DMRE). In terms of the DMRE’s direction, the commission will be supported by several third party specialists and undertaken in collaboration with the original equipment manufacturers of the conveyance infrastructure.
The accident occurred after a conveyance carrying 86 miners fell 200 metres down the one kilometre Rustenburg 11 shaft. Eleven miners were killed after the conveyance came to a sudden halt below 17 level near the shaft bottom.
Two more miners involved in the accident subsequently died of their injuries. Implats said a total of 43 employees injured in the accident have now been discharged from hospital. All employees previously receiving critical care have transitioned to normal care, it said.
Implats said the investigation will draw on observations recorded from the in loco inspection and findings from the ongoing internal investigation initiated by the company, which commenced soon after the accident occurred.
The platinum group metal miner said it was implementing some of the recommendations of the DMRE’s report with the balance to be applied at a later stage as appropriate.
Implats said it now had access to the impact infrastructure under the direction of the DMRE, partly to conduct remedial work. But the equipment affected by the accident as well as Shaft 11 “will remain decommissioned during this phase,” the company said.
The shaft’s annual production was about 173,000 ounces 6E.
“Implats reiterates its commitment to a rigorous and independent investigation process to ensure the root cause of the accident is understood, remedial actions implemented, and findings shared with interested and affected parties to advance mine safety,” it said.
The accident has significantly worsened a difficult year for Implats. As with every other PGM miner, Implats is struggling with a decline in metal prices which have squeezed margins.
The tragedy will also come as a blow to the South African mining sector’s attempts to improve safety where progress had been registered. “It serves as a stark reminder that there can never be any lapse in focus and vigilance regarding safety on mines,” said Japie Fullard chair of the Minerals Council’s ‘CEO Zero Harm Forum’.
Mining fatalities fell to a record low in South Africa last year. The 2022 Mine Health and Safety Statistics reported that 49 mineworkers died on the job in 2022 compared with 74 in 2021 and 60 in 2020. As of November 24, the mining industry had recorded 41 fatalities compared to 44 the same period a year earlier, said the Minerals Council.
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