The shadow of the
shaft headgear at
Phakisa mine
 
Johannesburg, South Africa — MININGREVIEW.COM — 28 June 2010 – Harmony Gold Mining Limited “’ Africa’s third-largest producer of the metal “’ says “booby trap” explosive devices were found near the scene of an explosion that killed four workers last week at one of its mines.

Bloomberg News reports that, while the devices are similar to those used by illegal miners, Harmony cannot yet say for certain what caused the “immense explosion” at its Phakisa mine, southwest of Johannesburg,

Spokeswoman Marian van der Walt said by phone from here that the devices had been found about 900m from the site of the June 24 accident, some 2km below the surface.

Mines in South Africa are among the deepest and most dangerous in the world. Tremors and fires often occur in the normal course of mining as explosives are used to blast rock from tunnels as far as almost 4km below the surface. Illegal miners break through barriers and use similar methods to extract gold from these mines, which are often linked by hundreds of km of underground tunnels.

Illegal mining costs the South African economy more than R5 billion a year, mines minister Susan Shabangu said in April. Pan African Resources Plc said last year that five illegal miners had died in a fire at the company’s Consort mine at Barberton.

Harmony strengthened security after more than 86 illegal miners had been killed in a fire at a disused mine last year. CEO Graham Briggs ordered the installation of additional security fencing, stopped his workers from taking food underground to prevent them selling it to illegal miners, and also offered them amnesty.

Phakisa, which started operating in Harmony’s 2008 financial year, has yet to resume mining after last week’s explosion.