Sibanye-Stillwater amcu
Credit: Sibanye-Stillwater

Sibanye-Stillwater confirmed over the weekend that the remaining three trapped workers at its Driefontein Masakhane shaft did not survive the seismic event, but were recovered and brought to surface.

All 13 employees who were unaccounted for after the seismic event have now been counted for. The death toll is seven.

The families of the employees have been contacted and are receiving necessary support and counselling.

The remaining six employees who were successfully rescued, are in hospital and are in a stable condition.

The board and management of Sibanye-Stillwater wishes to express its sincere condolences to friends and family of the deceased employees and those impacted by this tragic event.

A thorough investigation by management and the Department of Mineral resources (DMR) and other stakeholders will be performed and all efforts will be made to ensure to prevent incidents of this nature occurring in future.

“We thank everyone involved in the rescue operations, especially the mine rescue teams and our own employees, who have worked tirelessly for the last two and a half days to rescue our colleagues under extremely challenging conditions,” the company said in a statement.

Background on the incident

A seismic event (measuring 2.5 on the Richter scale) occurred on the western side of the Driefontein operations at approximately 12:15 on Thursday, 3 May 2018. Immediately after the location (epicentre) of this seismic event was identified by Sibanye-Stillwater’s extensive underground seismic monitoring systems, the teams working in the western side were contacted to ascertain if there had been any related safety concerns.

One of the teams did not respond on the first call, and a rescue process was immediately triggered. An emergency control room was established and paramedics and mine rescue teams deployed to the mine.

The unaccounted for team subsequently responded and it was established that the installed support and other safety systems in the area had prevented significant damage, and as a result, there were no injuries or safety issues resulting from the seismic event.

A mine rescue team had already been deployed and was making its way underground, when an unrelated second seismic event (measuring about 2.2 on the Richter scale) occurred at about 13:20, on the eastern side of the Masakhane mine approximately 2.5 km away from the first event. Although of a lower magnitude than the first event, the second seismic event caused a working stope (40 level,-27 East, 7 West panel), which was close to the epicentre of the seismic event to be inundated with loose rocks, trapping 13 employees working in the stope.

No other stopes in the mine were affected and all remaining employees at Driefontein were safely evacuated from the underground operations.

Shortly after the incident, rescue efforts began in earnest. All relevant stakeholders including the DMR and unions were alerted about the incident and once the missing employees had been identified, efforts to contact their families were made.

The families were offered transport to the mine, where they received regular updates on the rescue mission, and support, trauma counselling and medical care. Specially trained rescue teams from Mine Rescue Services, supported by Sibanye-Stillwater employees and guided by management in the emergency control room, worked relentlessly in extremely challenging conditions, for more than 40 hours to rescue and recover the missing employees, with the last employee being recovered at about 07:30 on Saturday 6 May 2018.

The fact that there were no further injuries despite the trying conditions, is testament to the training and commitment of these teams. We would like to thank all of the Mine Rescue Services brigades men from across the SA Mining industry, who volunteered for this essential service.