Eleven workers have died while 75 others have been injured following an accident at the Impala Platinum (Implats) mine in Rustenburg.
The company said in a statement on Tuesday that it was devastated to report the tragic loss of lives following the serious accident at the mine’s 11 shaft at 4.54pm on Monday.
The injured workers, said the company, were admitted for treatment to four hospitals across the region.
“The mine rescue operation is complete and all 86 employees are accounted for,” said Emma Townshend, spokesperson for Implats.
“We are presently in the process of informing and liaising with the impacted families in consultation with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and are working closely with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy.
“All mining operations at Impala Rustenburg are suspended today.”
Implats CEO Nico Muller said: “This is the darkest day in the history of Implats and our hearts are heavy for the lives lost and the individuals affected by this devastating accident.
“We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our colleagues, and [we] are in the process of ensuring all next of kin have been contacted.
“Implats is offering ongoing support to the families and colleagues of those lost in service. We also hold our injured colleagues in our thoughts at this incredibly difficult time.”
Muller thanked the medical crews from the Bojanala district and the Impala medical services team who provided emergency paramedic services and secured additional ICU beds and ambulances.
The teams also mobilised additional general surgeons and secured the support of three private hospitals to assist Impala Hospital in caring for the critically injured.
Said Muller: “We value the efforts of all stakeholders coming together in this extremely difficult time, particularly the emergency responders.”
On Monday, according to Muller, the 11 shaft personnel conveyance was hoisting employees to the surface at the end of their shift. At 4.54pm, the conveyance unexpectedly started descending.
“Its rapid descent was stopped by the conveyance counterweight becoming trapped by the jack catches,” said Muller.
“All emergency protocols were observed during the event and paramedics and our proto [search and rescue] teams were immediately mobilised.
“Investigations into the cause of the incident have commenced. Implats will provide updates when new information becomes available.”