Implats says 11 miners killed, 75 in hospital after conveyance cage tragedy in Rustenburg

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Daily Maverick

Eleven miners were killed and 75 admitted to hospital after an accident at Impala Platinum’s Rustenburg operations involving the conveyance cage that takes workers underground and back to the surface. This tragedy is a major setback to the mining sector’s vastly improved safety record.

Implats said the incident occurred just before 5pm on Monday when the conveyance cage was hoisting the miners to the surface after their shift.

“At 16:54, the conveyance unexpectedly started descending. Its rapid descent was stopped by the conveyance counterweight becoming trapped by the jack catches,” it said.

The miners were killed and injured when the cage’s plunge came to a sudden stop.

“This is the darkest day in the history of Implats,” CEO Nico Muller said. “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our colleagues and are in the process of ensuring all next of kin have been contacted.”

Investigations into the cause of the tragedy are under way and all mining activities at the Rustenburg facility have been halted.

The tragedy is a massive setback to the improving safety record of South Africa’s mining sector. Mining deaths in South Africa reached a record low of 49 in 2022. This figure was less than a fifth of the 2003 death toll of 270. In the 1980s as many as 800 miners were killed in a single year.

The accident occurred at the mine’s 11 shaft and is the company’s worst since 1974 when 13 of its employees were killed in an incident at a tailings dam, a company spokesman said.

Beyond the human tragedy, the disaster has struck during a tough time for Implats and other platinum group metals (PGM) producers, who are grappling with a collapse in prices for the precious metals.

Implats’ share price at midday on Tuesday was down over 7%, taking its decline in the year-to-date to over 63%.

Investors are increasingly concerned about safety – one of the key reasons for the strides on this front – and Implats’ overall safety record will now come into focus. Two years ago, three employees at its Rustenburg operations were killed during a mud rush.