Methane explosion claims another at Implats

Deaths at Impala Platinum mines this year rose to 16 on Friday after one of the group’s employees died from injuries sustained in a methane explosion as industry experts decried the rising fatalities.

This fatality count gives Implats the worst safety record in the platinum mining industry so far this year.

Thirteen of the 16 mine deaths took place at the number 14 shaft at Implats’s Impala Lease area near Rustenburg.

In the year to June, Implats reported 11 mine deaths.

On Friday Implats announced that Motinyane Molefe, a drill operator, passed away in hospital on Thursday. He was the second employee to die after a methane explosion the week before. Last Sunday Bongakale Motshodi, a scraper winch operator, passed away.

Jeremy Michaels, a Department of Minerals spokesman, said the issue of health and safety in South Africa’s mines is a top priority for the new Minister of Minerals, Susan Shabangu, and therefore, in line with this, the department is currently reviewing the operations of the mine health and safety inspectorate.

“Options to improve the current situation include amendments to the Mine Health and Safety Act, as well as bolstering the capacity of the inspectorate to better investigate accidents.”

“We also intend to pursue the prosecution route when it comes to taking responsibility for the deaths of mineworkers and we are therefore exploring ways of employing our own pathologists to ensure successful prosecutions in court.”

Implats said miner Vabohlongo Baatjie remained in a critical condition in hospital from injuries sustained in the methane explosion at the number 14 shaft at its Rustenburg operations on September 9.

“The cause of the explosion has not yet been determined. No further information can be released by the company until the investigation has been completed,” Implats said.

The poor safety record is costing Implats dearly in terms of lives lost as well as revenue.

Another accident at the Impala Lease 14 shaft, in which nine people died, will cost about 150 000 ounces of production, worth more than R1.5 billion, over the next five years.

Last month Implats chief executive David Brown said 50 000 ounces of platinum output would be lost this year as a result of the closure of the number 14 shaft and adjustments made to safety.

A further 20 000 ounces of platinum a year would be lost over up to five years as a result of adjustments to mechanised mining at the 14 shaft. Brown said the adjustments would limit the Impala Lease area’s production to 950 000 ounces a year for about five years.

The lost production could result in job cuts.

Source: Business Report

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