SA committee calls for harsh consequences for firms that fail safety

SOUTH Africa’s Select Committee on Land and Mineral Resources said companies such as Sibanye-Stillwater ought to face harsh consequences if it was found it had acted negligently following a seismic event in which six employees died last week.

“Although seismic events are a course of nature‚ it is high time that mining companies face serious consequences for neglecting measures for detecting early warning signs. Investigations on the accident should seek to establish the extent to which priority was given to health and safety at the mine‚” Times Live quoted chairperson of the committee Olefile Sefako, to have said.

Sibanye-Stillwater has argued that whilst it has seismic monitoring equipment at its mine, including Driefontein on the west Rand where the accident occurred, it was difficult to know exactly how seismic events would affect operations. For instance, the event measuring 2.2 on the Richter Scale that resulted in the death of the miners was preceded by a larger 2.4 quake in which there was no rockburst or fall of ground on the other side of the mine.

Said Sefako, however: “The committee believe that the right technology for detecting early signs of seismic events could be found if sufficient resources to conduct research were to be made available”.


  1. People should make sure they know the facts before they open their mouths and make rubbish statements.
    The geological community has been investigating ways to predict earthquakes for close on a century, unsuccessfully. The Chamber of Mines and the various SA gold mining companies have been conducting research into predicting and controlling rockbursts in the deep level gold mines for at least 50 years. While the mechanisms are well understood and the underground networks are excellent in locating the events, no reliable precursors to an event have been identified. Analysis of data after events has shown some relationships, but prediction of where and when an earthquake/seismic event will occur has not been successfully done.
    The seismic monitoring systems installed in the deep level gold mines are great management tools, to identify where an event has occurred and focus attention should working areas get damaged.
    How about giving the mines some credit for what has been done in very difficult conditions underground.

    • Hi Andrew – Great observation.

      I didn’t report it but I understand that when Gwede Mantashe met with unions on the Friday after the accident, including a quite vocal AMCU, he basically made the point – quite firmly I hear – that the option was to shut down mines. So I think there is some understanding in government circles as to the complexity of the debate. I do wonder though, as someone observed to me in another off the record chat, whether seismicity and the general safety track-record of the last 18 months in particular, puts another nail in the coffin of deep level mining, especially in gold. Thoughts welcome as I may write a column on this.

  2. I have been in Gold Mining for 30 years and I can tell you that, in my opinión anyway, Deep level Mining should cease. When you deal with people´s lives it is inmoral to send them to áreas where you KNOW some of them will die through uncontrollable events. We have had a 100 years of Deep level Mining, enough time to set up other industries to provide employment. Unfortunately the money earned was not spent well and through first apartheid and now the incompetence, arrogance and corruption of the ANC government, the goose is basically dead…
    Unfortunately for South Africa, platinum Mining is heading in the same direction….
    I do not have any positive suggestions unfortunately, it is basically too late…

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