Deadly fire at Implats mine under control

Impala Platinum jan 24 SUPPLIED File picture: Independent Media

Rustenburg – The fire at Impala Platinum’s 14 Shaft in Luka near Rustenburg was under control, the company said on Monday.

“To a large extent the fire has been extinguished, six respond teams are working underground. They are attending to smouldering areas and clearing…,” said spokesman Johan Theron.

Four mineworkers died on Saturday after a fire broke out underground at Shaft 14 during the night shift.

Mosielele Johannes Sesimane, 40, from Henningsvlei in Kuruman in the Northern Cape was one of the four workers who died, reportedly from smoke inhalation.

“We are hurt, it is difficult for us, he left behind his wife and child,” said Naphtiel Sesimane, the deceased’s younger brother.

He said the four men were overpowered by the smoke and were not burnt.

“I viewed my brother’s body. He is not burnt, his body is fine,” he said after going into the Impala Platinum Hospital to receive the post-mortem results.

He described his brother as a friendly, but strict person.

Mosielele Johannes Sesimane would be buried in Henningsvlei on Saturday. He is survived by his pregnant wife and a seven-year-old child, who had just started grade 1 this year.

Implats said a search and rescue operation for the four employees was initiated on Friday after all the other employees were safely evacuated from the shaft after the alarm had been raised.

In a statement released on Sunday, Implats’ CEO, Terence Goodlace, said they were continuing to work to extinguish the fire.

“Mine management are continuing efforts to extinguish the fire in the main underground decline at 14 Shaft and will only be able to fully assess the damage that has been caused by the fire when it is safe to do so. Early indications are that extensive damage has been caused to the conveyor, monorail, power and air reticulation systems.

“While gas readings continue to decrease in the underground working areas, they still remain dangerously high and power has not been restored to the bottom section of the shaft area,” he said.

“Given the tragic loss and need to redouble our efforts to achieve zero harm, we have resolved to close the entire mine to engage the full workforce on our safety readiness and emergency awareness before contemplating reopening the 14 Shaft underground workings again.”

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Sunday announced that mining operations had been suspended at Shaft 14.

“In terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, I have instructed that an investigation should commence urgently to determine what led to the incident. Furthermore, no mining will take place until the department has declared the area safe for workers,” Zwane said.

The South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in the North West conveyed its condolences to the families of the mineworkers.

“We welcome an independent probe into the tragedy by the department of mineral resources to ascertain whether there was negligence or failure on the part of Impala to adhere to set occupational health and safety standards, “ said provincial chairperson, Paul Sebegoe.

“One death of a miner on duty is a death too many,” he added.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was deeply worried and saddened that four mineworkers had lost their lives at Impala.

“It is unacceptable that mineworkers are denied their basic human right to work in an environment that guarantees their safety and that, instead, they are expected to go to work to die. We are selling our labour for the survival of our families, not our limbs and lives,” said Erick Gcilitshana, NUM Heath and Safety Secretary.

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