Sibanye truly in killing field

Director of the Wits Seismic Research Centre, Dr Musi Manzi, says the rocks at Sibanye-Stillwater mines may be more stressed than rocks at other mines./ Mduduzi Ndzingi
Director of the Wits Seismic Research Centre, Dr Musi Manzi, says the rocks at Sibanye-Stillwater mines may be more stressed than rocks at other mines./ Mduduzi Ndzingi

Leading South African geophysicist Dr Musa Manzi says the geographical area that Sibanye-Stillwater has been mining in may be the reason it has had the highest number of fatalities in the country.

The notorious mine has already been responsible for over 20 deaths this year alone.

"It is possible for different mines to be using the same kind of mining methodology and have one mine face more deaths," Manzi said.

Manzi last month won the National Science and Technology Forum TW Kambule: emerging researcher award for his innovative 3D reflection seismic technology. He wants to collaborate with other researchers from the fields of engineering, earthquake seismology and rocks mechanics on research that will contribute to mine safety.

The 34-year-old director of the Wits University Seismic Research Centre said the rocks that Sibanye-Stillwater mines for gold may be more stressed than rocks at other mines.

"Rock bursts happen all the time," he said .

"There would be people dying every day if mines were not doing what they could with the technology available."

Manzi said that there is currently no known technology that mines can use to predict earthquakes or seismic events.

His 3D technology can allow mines to see images of the earth so as to avoid unnecessary drilling and thus helping to avoid putting pressure on the earth.

"Currently mines use sensors to sense if there are seismic [earthquake] activities. However, these are not always accurate, they can be 10m off and cannot predict if there will be an earthquake," he said.

He said mines have the option of using robot technology to mine for minerals but this would worsen unemployment in South Africa.

"I can control a machine from my office and have it do everything, even if there is the possibility for rock falls, because there will be no deaths," he said.

Manzi said he plans to form a Sibanye task team with other industry experts to tackle the high number of deaths at the company's mines.

Spokesman for Sibanye-Stillwater James Wellsted confirmed that an independent task team will be formed to enhance risk management effectiveness at their mines.

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