Number Nine shaft
at the Gold Fields
Driefontein gold mine
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 16 October 2008 – Leading international gold producer Gold Fields Limited – the world’s fourth-largest gold producer – has shut its Driefontein mine after earth tremors at Shaft No. 5 killed one worker and trapped another underground.
 
In a statement here the company said the shaft at Driefontein – one of its key mines located near Johannesburg – had been hit by two tremors, and a team was searching for the trapped worker. Four other workers were injured, two of them seriously.

Gold Fields spokesman Willie Jacobsz said he could not give an indication of how long the mine’s closure would last. “Our main focus for now is to continue the search for the trapped worker,” he added.

Reuters reports that a section of Driefontein had been closed in the quarter to end-September for support work to be installed, curbing output. The mine produced 218 200 ounces in the June quarter, the highest output of any of the Gold Fields mines at the time. The group has gold mines in South Africa, Ghana, Australia and Peru.

South Africa has an appalling safety record, and about 140 workers have died in mines so far this year, compared to 221 in 2007 and 200 in 2006.

Gold Fields has vowed to cease mining if it cannot mine safely. Reuters says that at the time it shut part of Driefontein for safety improvements, the company also closed the main shaft at its Kloof mine in South Africa for safety repairs.

Mining companies have suffered production losses after fatalities due to routine shutdowns ordered by the government for investigations, and work stoppages by union members who have vowed to stop work for a day to mark the death of colleagues.

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland told Reuters last week that in the past four or five quarters, the group had lost an average of about 700 kg a quarter due to safety stoppages, but added that the losses had eased as safety improved.