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South Africa: 12 workers killed at Impala Platinum Mine

30 November, 2023What could have been a joyous end of shift for 86 miners at Impala Platinum Holding Limited, Implats, mine in Rustenburg on 27 November ended up in a horrific accident that claimed the lives of 12 workers and seriously injured 74 workers who are in hospital.

According to Implats, the workers were in a personnel conveyance (elevator or lift) cage hoisting them to the surface of the mine from a depth of about 1,000 meters when the accident occurred. The conveyance unexpectedly reversed direction and began descending through the shaft and crashed at the bottom of the shaft.

The department of mineral resources and energy has announced that the accident investigation will be completed in three months.

Regulations on machinery and equipment stipulate that regular checks and maintenance must be done on the lifts. If as a result of examination, any weakness or defect is found which may pose the risk to the health and safety of any person, that the lift is not used until the risk has been rectified, states part of the regulation.

IndustriALL Global Union affiliates, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) expressed shock at the horrific news. 

The NUM, which is conducting a campaign for mine health and safety and has gone to court against Anglo-American to demand that the Mine Health and Safety Act remains the main law governing the industry, said: 

“We will continue to demonstrate our displeasure regarding the growing numbers of fatal accidents and injuries in the mines. Once again, we call upon the companies to show some commitment in addressing the issues of health and safety since the lives of mine workers matters most. The regulator must hold the companies accountable.”

Jerry Morulane, NUMSA regional secretary for Hlanganani which includes the Rustenburg area, says:

“NUMSA mourns the loss of these workers. They are not just numbers, they are breadwinners, they have households who love and depend on them. We send our deepest condolences to their families and friends for this tragic loss. This incident is gravely concerning and raises many questions about health and safety issues.”

NUMSA’s members at Implats include contract workers who work at shaft 11 where the accident occurred and are employed by Triple M, Reagetswe, Platchro, Oteng and Newrak mining. 

Glen Mpufane, IndustriALL mining director said: 

“Our thoughts are with the families of the deceased workers to whom we offer our sincere condolences and we wish those in hospital a speedy recovery. Once again we are reminded, in a most painful way, to continually demand from mining companies including Implats the highest levels of compliance to health and safety protocols. Mining companies have an obligation to provide safe working conditions for mineworkers and must not be negligent.”

South Africa has ratified Convention 176 (Safety and Health in Mines), and the unions welcomed the inclusion of Occupational Safety and Health Convention and the Promotional Framework for Occupational Safety and Health as fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization.  

Photo: Shutterstock