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Daily check done before lift collapse - Implats

Amcu accuses mine of negligence after 11 miners die

The 11c vent shaft where the lift collapsed, killing 11 miners and injuring 75 others.
The 11c vent shaft where the lift collapsed, killing 11 miners and injuring 75 others.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

Just hours before a lift carrying 86 mineworkers collapsed, killing 11 people at Impala Platinum mine, internal experts had done maintenance checks, saying it was safe to operate. 

This according to Implats spokesperson Johan Theron who said the company had conducted its regular maintenance checks earlier on Monday to ensure that the cage was safe to carry people from underground to the surface. 

The accident occurred at 4.54pm on Monday at Impala Rustenburg 11 shaft operation. A further 75 employees were injured in the accident.

Theron said experts who conducted the checks included shaft engineers, a winder foreman, winder driver operator and winder engineers. 

“Daily maintenance and check are done; these are a very strict requirement. Earlier that day, like all other days, it was done and our internal experts did not notice anything. They signed it off as safe and this was recorded in our log books. 

“This check looks at the tolerance and measurement of the ropes. This rope is connected to the personnel conveyance, which hoists employees up and down the shaft. The conveyance comprises three levels, each with a capacity to carry 35 personnel,” Theron said. 

He said a check list is used to assess various aspects of the cage such as the operation of the doors, the condition of the ropes as well as other safety devices. 

“We also conduct weekly and monthly safety assessments which are done by external experts to assess all our different systems. The requirements are very strict, and we adhere to them.”

He said on the day of the incident the counterweight attached to the winder rope was pulled up into the emergency stoppage device at the shaft which caused the man hoist travelling in the opposite direction also attached to the same rope, to stop abruptly. 

“... the control and safety mechanism on the winder that malfunctioned.”

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) accused the mine of negligence.

President Joseph Mathunjwa said the disaster could have been avoided.

“We have been calling for the amendment of the mine safety act. We want these company bosses to be accountable and be charged with culpable homicide.

“This accident could have been avoided, these lifts need to be serviced regularly and the safety measures should be checked. For a lift of this magnitude to have all safety measures failing and crashing – who’s going to charge them because the politicians have interests in these mines,” said Mathunjwa.

When Sowetan’s sister publication TimesLIVE visited the shaft on Tuesday, underground operations had been halted, the scene was quiet and there were no families in sight.

Mathunjwa said owners have no interest in achieving zero harm at mines.

“Two weeks ago two workers died at Sibanye and nothing has happened. These inquiries are becoming a new normal like load shedding and water shedding.

“Our tolerance level is very high – we tolerate all rubbish that happens to us because that’s how we are. In Lily Mine [in Barberton] we still have three workers trapped. They can’t go and retrieve just a container with three people inside.

“What happened in the Marikana Commission? This will be one of those inquiries where no one will be held accountable,” said Mathunjwa.

The department of mineral resources and energy has called for an investigation into the incident at Implats.

Minister of mineral resources and energy Gwede Mantashe said statutory measures will be implemented to support the deceased and injured.

“We came to have a first-hand sense of the nature of the disaster. Rescue operations have been completed, the deceased remains 11.

“It takes us back to 2018 when we last saw a disaster in the industry in Phalaborwa. The nature of the disaster is similar to the Vaal Reefs mine years ago. We’re mourning them and sympathising with the family.”

Mantashe said there are routine checks undertaken at the mine.

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