Implats recovers bodies of three miners at Rustenburg 6 Shaft following mud rush

THREE of five miners caught in a mud rush at Impala Platinum’s (Implats’) Rustenburg Mines 6 Shaft on November 28 had passed away, the group said today.

Two employees were successfully rescued following the incident in which a total of eight miners working at the foot of the shaft 265 metres below surface were inundated. Implats reported shortly after the incident that two employees had immediately escaped.

Operations at Shaft 6, and at Shaft 16, are suspended. Implats had also reported an accident at Shaft 16 on November 27 involving a contract employee who was fatally injured during underground drilling operations.

The trapped miners were reached mid-afternoon on Monday (November 29) following rescue efforts by eight search and rescue teams as well as other mining companies that were involved in clearing accumulated material.

Nico Muller, CEO of Implats, said rescue teams were at a distance of about 50 metres from the trapped miners. Prior to the rescue and recovery, Muller estimated it could have taken two days to reach the accident site.

Whilst presenting Implats’ bid for a majority stake in Royal Bafokeng Platinum yesterday, Muller said it could be weeks before full production at 6 Shaft was resumed. Although 6 Shaft contributed only about 7% of total platinum group metal (PGM) production from Rustenburg Mines, there were ripple affects that would likely affect the complex.

Rustenburg’s 6 Shaft was a relatively dry shaft so the water ingress behind the mud rush had to be located and efforts were required to make sure similar events might not happen at other shafts. The accident would have “an important bearing” on PGM production from Rustenburg Mines, he said.

The events at Implats’ Rustenburg shafts are another blow to the South African mining sector’s efforts to contain the number of fatalities this year which were heading for a second successive annual increase. As of end-October, the number of fatalities at the country’s mines stood at 55 compared to 43 at the same time last year.

“This is the second year of regression in the safety performance since the 2019 record low of 51 fatalities,” the Minerals Council has said.