The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) expressed concern over mine safety on Friday after 79 miners were stuck underground for at least five hours at Sibanye-Stillwater's Kloof operations in Johannesburg due to an "operational incident".
"The NUM is deeply worried about the health and safety standards at Sibanye-Stillwater gold operations. Mineworkers are not safe at all," the union's health and safety chairperson Peter Bailey said of the incident, which occurred on Thursday.
According to Bailey, the miners were trapped underground at 16:00, and although everybody was brought to the surface safely by 21:00, NUM wants the Department of Mineral Resources to investigate further.
Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellsted said the miners were not trapped, but did have to wait until the shaft was declared safe after an "operational incident".
The incident involved a timber carrier entering the shaft barrel.
The miners were about to knock off at 16:00 but the incident meant they could not use the shaft to go back up until it had been inspected for damage, and given the all-clear.
The miners were not in danger, and waited in the shaft waiting area for the green light to go back to the surface, he said, adding that operations have not been halted.
On February 12, a mineworker died after he was crushed by a box of gold ore at Sibanye-Stillwater's Masakhane shaft, at its Driefontein operations outside Carletonville.
A few days prior, on February 7, two trapped miners were confirmed dead at the mine's Kloof Ikamva shaft in Glenharvie, Westonaria, after a fall of ground.
Less than a week earlier, on February 2955 miners who were trapped underground for more than a day following a power cut were brought back to surface.
At the time, the mining company said a massive power outage caused by a storm had prevented lifts from bringing the night shift to the surface at the Beatrix gold mine, in the small town of Theunissen, near Welkom.