BREAKING: 11 miners killed in accident at Impala Platinum mine

BREAKING: 11 miners killed in accident at Impala Platinum mine Photos: Stock/Canva

Fatal plunge at platinum mine claims lives of 11 miners

In a tragic incident at a platinum mine, 11 miners lost their lives, and 75 others sustained injuries in a devastating elevator plunge.

BREAKING: 11 miners killed in accident at Impala Platinum mine

BREAKING: 11 miners killed in accident at Impala Platinum mine Photos: Stock/Canva

An elevator carrying workers at a giant South African platinum mine plunged 200 metres killing 11 miners and injuring 75, the operators said Tuesday.

Impala Platinum said the “devastating accident” happened Monday at its Rustenburg mine, northwest of Johannesburg, as more than 80 employees were being taken to the surface at the end of their shift.

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Impala Platinum

The alert was raised as the lift “unexpectedly started descending”, according to the company.

A spokesperson for the company, known as Implats, said the shaft was 1,000 metres (3,280 feet) deep and that the elevator dropped 200 metres before safety equipment arrested “its rapid descent.”

“This is the darkest day in the history of Implats and our hearts are heavy for the lives lost and the individuals affected by this devastating accident,” Implats CEO Nico Muller said.

“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our colleagues and are in the process of ensuring all next of kin have been contacted”.

The company said 75 injured workers were admitted to local hospitals.

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Spokesman Johan Theron told AFP some workers were severely injured, most suffered from ankle and leg fractures. Others walked out with minor scratches.

Mine kept closed

Rescue operations had been completed and all the 86 employees involved were accounted for, Implats said.

But all operations at the mine were suspended on Tuesday, as an investigation went ahead, the company added.

“Implats is offering ongoing support to the families and colleagues of those lost in service,” said Muller. “We also hold our injured colleagues in our thoughts at this incredibly difficult time.”

But trade unions questioned safety measures at the mine.

“This incident… raises a lot of questions about health and safety issues,” the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa said in a statement.

Geoffrey Moatshe, of the National Union Of Mineworkers, said that shaft lifts need to be checked on a regular basis.

“If this thing was checked and maintained, this could have been avoided,” Moatshe told AFP.

Mine accidents are common in the country, where hundreds of thousands work in the industry.

Industry group Minerals Council South Africa said 41 miners have died since the beginning of the year.

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Implats said in August that five employees had died at work in various mines in the previous 12 months.

“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,” said Japie Fullard, chair of a Minerals Council’s safety initiative.

South Africa has the world’s deepest mines and is a major exporter of gold, diamonds, coal and other raw materials. It is the biggest producer of platinum.

Many of the deep mines have lifts that can carry more than 100 people at a time.

Dozens of mineworkers are killed each year, though numbers have been falling as safety standards have been stepped up over the past two decades.

ALSO READ: BREAKING: 11 miners killed in accident at Impala Platinum mine

More than 430 coal miners were killed in the Coalbrook disaster in 1960. There were about 50 mining deaths in 2022, according to government statistics.

At least three workers were killed in a mudslide at the Rustenburg Implats mine in 2021.

© Agence France-Presse