London, England — MININGREVIEW.COM — 15 December 2008 – Aquarius Platinum Limited – a focused platinum group metals (PGMs) producer in Southern Africa with a primary listing on the London Stock Exchange, plus listings on the ASX and the JSE – has decided to close its Everest mine for at least six months, which means that the majority of the workforce of approximately 1 950 people will be retrenched.
Operations at the mine were suspended from night shift a week ago, after instability was detected in the upper areas of the mine.
Management has continued to assess the situation in conjunction with the South African Department of Minerals and Energy (DME) and a Section 54 notice in terms of the Mines Health and Safety Act is in force prohibiting normal mining operations, but allowing inspection teams to enter the mine and permitting the resumption of pumping operations.
“Following a comprehensive assessment of the options available to mine management, and primarily focusing on the future safety of the mine and its personnel, the decision has been made to suspend operations for a minimum of six months,” said a statement released here today. “This is considered a prudent time frame that will permit assessment of the best way forward for the long-term.”
It went on to say: “the six-month closure will allow for a detailed technical investigation and the determination of alternatives to re-establish access and beltways into the underground workings, after which Everest can to be returned to production in a safe manner. It should be emphasised that the subsidence event does not jeopardise the sustainability of Everest on a long-term basis,” it added.
“Regrettably this decision also means that the majority of the workforce of approximately 1 950 people will be retrenched,” the statement revealed. “To this extent the process of consultation with the workforce and the unions has already commenced.”
Commenting on this decision, Aquarius CEO Stuart Murray Platinum said: “Our decision to suspend operations is most regrettable, however it is the right one because it will allow us the time we need to ensure that Everest is brought back into production in the safest manner for the long-term, rather than rushing into a short-term, high-risk decline rehabilitation project. The suspension of operations also places the least strain on the South African business as a whole at a time of low platinum group metals prices,” he added.