Impala Platinum (Implats) has restarted production at its Rustenburg complex in the North West province of South Africa following a 27 November incident at its 11 Shaft that has now claimed 13 workers’ lives.
The event involved a winder rope, which is connected to the mine’s personnel conveyance to hoist individuals up and down the shaft over its levels, and with the capacity to carry 35.
“The shaft is approximately 1,000 meters deep with operations across 20 levels,” the company said on 28 November. “After ascending as scheduled towards 17 level, the conveyance unexpectedly reversed direction and began descending back down through the shaft.”
While emergency protocol was immediately and automatically activated, it was unable to immediately arrest the rapid descent of the lift – though the winder rope remained intact.
“The lift came to a sudden stop at 20 level, some 180 meters below 17 level close to the bottom of 11 Shaft, when the counterweight, which balances the conveyance system reached the top of the winding infrastructure on surface, and as designed, was caught in jack catches. This resulted in a sudden, almost instantaneous deceleration, the force of which severely impacted the 86 employees who were standing upright in the three levels of the lift at the time.”
The lift was still attached to the winder rope as it slipped, so the lift was not in freefall, but the precise break force was now known at the time it occurred.
By the following day, Implats said 11 had died and another 75 were hospitalised.
In its 4 December update, the miner said a 13th miner had passed away after succumbing to his injuries. Twenty-three had been discharged from the hospital and, of the 50 still in the hospital, eight remain in critical care.
“In collaboration with the families of affected employees, Implats has set aside Wednesday, 6 December as a day of remembrance for our employees, who have all been impacted by this tragic event,” officials said.
“A memorial service will be held at Impala Rustenburg to allow for our employees to come together to honour the memory of our lost, injured and affected colleagues.”
Implats also declined to release any names of those involved at the request of the victims’ families.
CEO Nico Muller previously said: “At this time of profound grief, our thoughts are with the families mourning their loved ones. We stand in solidarity with our employees, their families, communities and indeed everyone impacted by this heartbreaking event.
“In accordance with our We Care programme, Implats will provide ongoing support to the families of the deceased and has set aside funds to cover their funerals. I also reiterate my gratitude for the immediate assistance provided to us by our peers in the broader mining community. More than 15 specialist rescue teams, called proto teams, were deployed to 11 Shaft [and] other mining operations sent all available ambulances to Impala Rustenburg to assist in transporting our injured colleagues to the nearby hospitals.”
Source: Impala Platinum