Sibanye Gold mine rescue: Parliamentary committee slams company's 'attitude to safety'

Cape Town - Parliament's Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources is outraged that 955 miners were trapped underground from Wednesday until Friday morning, just because a storm knocked out power supplies.

Read: More than 900 trapped underground in Free State mine

"It is utterly unacceptable that an underground mine, whose operation takes place under the light of a bulb, could attribute its failure to bringing workers on the surface to [a] power outage. This goes to demonstrate the attitude of management towards safety," committee chairperson Sahlulele Luzipo said.

Luzipo said a caring management would have foreseen such an event, and devised a back-up plan.

The National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) is insisting that the mine remain shut, pending a full investigation by the Department of Mineral Resources. 

"They should not be allowed to operate until they can guarantee the safety of workers," said spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola.

Also read: Rescued Sibanye Gold miners receiving medical attention after being trapped underground for over 24 hours

Mining company Sibanye-Stillwater said in a statement that a severe storm on Wednesday night had caused the collapse of the primary and secondary Eskom power lines supplying electricity to its Beatrix operations.

This caused a power surge and outage at all three shafts at Beatrix, trapping the majority of the night shift underground.

A back-up generator got 64 employees to the surface at Beatrix 1 shaft and 272 employees at Beatrix 4 shaft during the course of Thursday morning.

Damage to the winder control systems and generators at the Beatrix 3 shaft, because of the power surge, resulted in 955 employees remaining underground at the shaft stations until Eskom had restored power.

Contingency plans were made by mine rescue teams to evacuate miners through the second outlet at Beatrix 1 shaft, if power was not restored.

"Through a tremendous effort to install temporary power line pylons by both mine management and Eskom, power was successfully restored during the morning of 2 February 2018 and all employees were safely hoisted to surface," said spokesperson James Wellsted.

A thorough medical examination, and counselling would follow, and the mine was expected to reopen again on February 5.

Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman commented: "This is a significant rescue effort and one that all who participated in can be extremely proud of, and it is a clear demonstration of the competence within the South African mining industry. 

"The actions taken by management and decisions taken resulted in all of our employees returning safely to their families."

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