Mine closed for safety reasons after 955 trapped workers freed

2018-02-02 21:26
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Pic: Gallo Images)

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane. (Pic: Gallo Images)

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Welkom – Sibanye Gold Beatrix mine has been closed for the safety of staff members, after 955 miners were trapped underground for more than 24 hours when a storm caused an electric cable outage on Wednesday night.

This was according to Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, who visited the site on Friday, where the miners were eventually freed.

The mine workers were rescued at around 06:30 on Friday. Some of them were dehydrated and there were a few cases of high blood pressure.

But there were no serious injuries or fatalities. Zwane also told reporters that the storm had a negative effect on the mine, but they did not want to "speculate" on what happened.

"My team is here, we want to have facts [and] for now, the mine is closed for the safety of staff. We don't want to speculate, but what we got as an explanation is that the system was also affected and we are doing our own investigations around that," he added.

'Negligence'

He said they had agreed to follow due process to ensure the safety of everyone and to allow the mine to operate.

Miners were receiving counselling and medical treatment on Friday.

Zwane said he would meet with miners once this was finalised.

"We will investigate the issue of negligence, generator, including the infrastructure."

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa had urged his members not to report for duty on Monday, so they could recover and receive counselling.

Mathunjwa also demanded new generators at the mine and a full-scale audit to prevent future similar occurrences.

"If Sibanye can purchase a mine in the US [United States], surely they can purchase new generators to save lives. We want to check whether Sibanye is complying with all the regulations, because it is quite clear that the company should have an emergency power supply," Mathunjwa said.

According to Mathunjwa, in 2000, an explosion killed seven workers and in 2001 a further 13 mine workers lost their lives.

"We thank God that this mine is not a deep mine, it is a shallow mine, if it was a deep mine, I'm telling you today we will be talking a different story," Mathunjwa said.

They were also demanding R3 000 compensation per worker.

Sibanye Gold spokesperson James Wellsted also confirmed that the miners had been brought to the surface safely.

"There were some people with dehydration and few cases of high blood pressure and 16 of our older employees needed drips, but everything was successful," Wellsted told News24.

In a statement on Friday, Eskom said the two 132 kV lines that supplied mines in the Welkom area collapsed due to a severe storm at around 23:18 on Wednesday night, leaving mines in the area without electricity supply.

Officials worked tirelessly to restore the power supply to rescue them.

"I would like to commend the team for working around the clock to ensure that power was restored, especially to the mine where workers' lives were at risk. The team's effort demonstrated a shared act of humanity and is in line with our value of Sinobuntu (We Care) which, alongside [our] other five values, underpins our business operations,” Eskom' s interim group chief executive Phakamani Hadebe said.

Read more on:    sibanye gold  |  mosebenzi zwane  |  mining

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