Health and safety called into question after 11 mineworkers killed in accident at Implats

The share price of Implats fell by 7.4% in early trade on Tuesday. Picture: Supplied

The share price of Implats fell by 7.4% in early trade on Tuesday. Picture: Supplied

Published Nov 29, 2023


Health and safety has been called into question once again in the mining sector in South Africa following the tragedy that took place at the Implats 11 Shaft operation at Impala Rustenburg in North West that left 11 mineworkers dead and 75 others seriously injured.

The accident occurred when a cage carrying mineworkers to the surface fell.

Implats said the cage comprised three levels, each with a capacity to carry 35 people.

The share price of Implats fell by 7.4% in early trade on Tuesday.

“Initial reports indicate that there have been several serious injuries, but an accurate assessment of the full human impacts of the accident is not currently possible, given the complexity of the rescue operation,” Implats said after the incident.

“Following the incident, the paramedics and our Proto (underground rescue) teams were immediately mobilised. They have accessed underground workings and the two upper levels of the conveyance have been cleared.”

The mining giant said on Tuesday that the rescue was now focused on evacuating the lower level.

“The safety of our employees is paramount and we are providing all possible support to those involved and working closely with the relevant authorities. We remain steadfast in our dedication to ensuring our colleagues are brought home safely and continue to prioritise safety above all else,” Implats said.

Numsa shocked to hear of deaths

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa Numsa said it was shocked to hear of the deaths.

The union said that it represented contract workers at Implats who work at shaft 11.

“We have members at Triple M, Reagetswe, Platchro, Oteng and Newrack mining. This incident is gravely concerning and it raises a lot of questions about health and safety issues,” Numsa said on Tuesday.

“Numsa dips its revolutionary red flag to mourn the loss of these workers. They are not just numbers, they are breadwinners and they have households who love them, and depend on them. We send our deepest condolences to their families and friends for this tragic loss of life.“

The Minerals Council South Africa said it mourned the lives lost.

“The immediate assistance that the Minerals Council’s member companies gave to Impala was impeccable, with more than 15 Proto teams deployed to 11 Shaft,” said Japie Fullard, chairperson of the Minerals Council’s CEO Zero Harm Forum.

“All the available ambulances from other mining operations were sent to the mine to transport the injured employees to nearby hospitals, with paramedics deployed to give medical assistance,” Fullard said.

“Our heartfelt condolences go out to all the families, friends and colleagues affected in this accident. We are in constant contact with Impala Platinum’s leadership and its safety teams to offer all the assistance we can.”

Health and safety in South Africa mines

“This is a tragic accident. It serves as a stark reminder that there can never be any lapse in focus and vigilance regarding safety on mines. It is the most important aspect of mining and the one that receives our undivided leadership attention. We call on all our members to reinvigorate their safety programmes and initiatives.”

The mining industry had recorded 41 fatalities this year, as at November 24, compared to 44 in the same period a year earlier.

“This is a terrible blow to our ambition of ending 2023 with fewer fatalities than last year when there were 49 fatalities, the lowest on record, and the continuation of our journey towards zero harm,” said Mzila Mthenjane, CEO of the Minerals Council.

This comes after the Minerals Council Facts and Figures 2022 pocketbook said in May that a dramatic improvement in health and safety performance was recorded in 2022 for the first time in its history, with the South African mining industry recording less than 50 lives lost in a calendar year.

In 2019, 51 lives were lost, which was the lowest on record.

Provisional statistics indicated that 49 employees lost their lives last year, compared to 74 in 2021.