Total fatalities in Rustenburg accident now at 13, says Implats

IMPALA Platinum (Implats) said today another employee involved in last week’s Rustenburg 11 Shaft accident had passed away. This takes to 13 the number of employees who have died as a result of the accident, described by Implats’ CEO Nico Muller as the firm’s “darkest day”.

According to Implats’ initial findings, the conveyance or cage that was returning employees to surface fell about 200m before the winder counterweight snagged in workings. Although the conveyance was not in free-fall, it nonetheless resulted in fatalities.

As of Monday morning, 23 employees have been discharged from hospital. Of the 50 employees who remain in hospital, eight are in critical care, Implats said.

Implats set aside Wednesday (December 6) as a day of remembrance for employees. “A memorial service will be held at Impala Rustenburg to allow for our employees to come together to honour the memory of our lost, injured and affected colleagues,” it said.

Production at Impala Rustenburg restarted last week following a two day shutdown, but operations at Shaft 11 remain suspended which has annual production of about 173,000 ounces (6E). At about 1.2 million ounces annually, Rustenburg accounts for about a third of Implats’ total concentrate (6E) production including third party and joint venture production.

The tragedy is a major blow to the South African mining sector’s attempts to improve safety where progress had been registered. Mining fatalities fell to a record low in South Africa last year. The 2022 Mine Health and Safety Statistics reported that 49 mineworkers died on the job in 2022 compared with 74 in 2021 and 60 in 2020.

As of November 24, the mining industry had recorded 41 fatalities compared to 44 the same period a year earlier, said the Minerals Council.