At least 11 mineworkers have died at Impala Platinum Mine in Rustenburg, North West when a cage transporting the miners fell into a shaft.
Spokesperson for the mine, Johan Theron told broadcaster Newzroom Afrika that the incident happened on Monday and the work of rescuing survivors has continued overnight.
“I can confirm that yesterday afternoon during the normal back-shift procedure of picking people up from the bottom of the shaft, at 11 Shaft at our Rustenburg operation (the personnel conveyance also known as the cage) was moving upwards but unexpectedly started slipping down,” he said.
“Emergency protocol was immediately applied but it failed to arrest this slipping conveyance.”
At least 64 people have been admitted to hospitals in the area, with 22 at the Implats private hospital and 42 admitted at different public and private hospitals in Rustenburg.
Theron said the incident was “so unusual and tragic” as the similar transportation system of mineworkers was widely used in South Africa and other parts of the world.
He said the conveyance elevator has the capacity to carry up to 130 people over three levels, and there were 88 workers being brought up to the surface when the incident happened.
The company has around 50,000 people working at its Rustenburg operations.
In a statement on Monday night, Implats announced that “it is with regret” that a serious safety incident involving a winder rope occurred 11 Shaft.
Implats said the incident was centred around a rope.
“This rope is connected to the personnel conveyance, which hoists employees up and down the shaft. The conveyance comprises three levels, each with a capacity to carry 35 personnel,” Implats said in the statement on Monday.
“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.”
This is a developing story.