By Christian Moess Laursen
Eleven miners were killed and 75 others injured at an Impala Platinum mine in South Africa when an industrial elevator hoisting employees to the surface suddenly plummeted.
The accident--one of the deadliest at a facility run by an international mining major in years--highlights the risks that still haunt the world's largest platinum producing country, where hundreds of thousands of laborers toil deep underground mines.
Impala said the lift was bringing workers back to the surface at the end of their shift at 1654 local time Monday when it unexpectedly started to fall. The fall was stopped by the lift counterweight becoming trapped, it said.
Mining operations in the Rustenburg area, where the mine is situated, have been suspended, Impala said. The Rustenburg operations are the company's largest, expected to produce between 1.18 million and 1.28 million ounces of platinum metals in the fiscal year ending June 30. In total, Impala Platinum produced 3.25 million ounces in fiscal 2023.
According to the company, the rescue operation is complete and another 75 employees involved in the accident have been hospitalized.
Impala is liaising with the families of those affected in consultation with the Association of Mineworkers and the Construction Union, who are also working closely with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.
South Africa has a tragic history of mining-relating disasters, including the Coalbrook accident that killed 435 people in 1960, and the Kinross accident, which killed 177 people in 1986. Since 1994, 5,385 people have died in mine-related accidents, according to South Africa's Mineral Council.
Monday's accident is one of the most significant losses of life for a South African company since the 2009 Harmony Gold mining disaster, which killed 82 people.
In 2022, the South African mining sector recorded its lowest fatality rate this century with 49 deaths. During fiscal 2023, ended June 30, Impala Platinum itself reported five fatalities.
In August, Impala said it had made improvements in safety at Rustenburg, which achieved a lost-time injury frequency rate of 4.71 for the year, the lowest reported in 13 years.
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(END) Dow Jones Newswires