Sibanye-Stillwater evacuates employees after rails plummet down platinum shaft

SIBANYE-Stillwater hoisted the remaining 300 employees to surface at its Thembelani shaft at its Rustenburg-based platinum operations following an incident on April 30 in which rails slipped free of a conveyance and fell down the shaft.

No injuries were reported following the incident which occurred at about 1pm South African time today. A total of 1,800 employees were working underground at the time.

“The shaft inspection confirmed that it was safe to hoist employees from the fourteenth level of the Thembelani shaft,” said Sibanye-Stillwater in an announcement. “More than 1,500 employees have been safely brought to surface, with the remaining employees being gradually hoisted to surface,” it said.

It later advised that all employees had been returned to surface, a development mines minister, Gwede Mantashe, commended. He said there was no place for complacency, however. “Despite strides made on health and safety thus far, we should not be complacent. We are committed to the goal of zero harm at work. Every worker must return home safe,” he said in a statement.

The Department of Minerals Resources would begin “… with a comprehensive investigation into the matter,” he added.

The incident comes almost a year to the day that seismic activity at its gold mines west of Johannesburg in which the lives of seven miners had been lost. By the middle of 2018, the company had reported 21 fatalities – a statistic that CEO Neal Froneman described as among the most traumatic of its 30 years in mining.

Sibanye-Stillwater didn’t comment on the economic impact of any production interruptions, but extended downtime would be especially unwelcome given the five-month strike at its gold mines which sent the group towards a pre-emptive R3.45bn deleveraging of its balance sheet by means of a share placement and metal forward sales agreement.

At some 104,000 ounces for the quarter, gold production was 90% of anticipated production levels, but only 36% the level of production of the first quarter in the previous financial year. “Unit operating and all-in sustaining costs will be negatively impacted by the reduced production levels,” Sibanye-Stillwater said.

Sibanye-Stillwater also said earlier this year that its Stillwater in the US got off to a slower than anticipated start to the financial year which compounded its financial challenges. Stillwater’s production guidance was unchanged, however.

5 COMMENTS

  1. First the gold mines, now platinum. Someone need to look why. Is it perhaps that they are so obsessed about cost saving that they neglected safety.
    How about a simple comparison. What systems do Anglo, Glencore, Northam , etc have in place that Sibanye does not?????

  2. The result – another substantial drop in the share price of around 10% in 2 business days.
    What is notable about this, is the large volume of trade the day before the event.
    Coincidence?

  3. Looks to me that the safety procedures worked very well after the incident – and this was definitely no tragic safety disaster – everyone was safely brought to surface within a few hours of the incident, once all precautions had been made to ensure that it was safe to do so. By all accounts no one was hurt. Congratulations are probably in order.

  4. “Probably”?

    Admittedly (and I’m sure Neal will agree), he can come across a bit blunt to a non-mining fellow, but the media has got to grow up and stop selling the sensational. Of course, they won’t/can’t (nature of the beast), but at least WE can avoid taking them, and social media), too seriously.

    With respect, David.

    • Howdy – Well I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, as that terrible saying goes.

      I’m actually unaware of the media or union comments Neal is referring to, but a free media is right where it matters in a democratic society. You only have to look at how media reports are referenced in the protector’s state capture report to see that. But are there media excesses, failures etc …? You bet.

      David

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