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Multiple underground mine workers suffer fatal fall

Impala mine
Impala mine

Almost a dozen subterranean employees plunged to their death.

Authorities are examining how lifting machinery fatally dropped 11 night shift workers at Implats’ Impala mine.

Investigators are trying to determine how a three-storey elevator plunged 200 metres on 27 November 2023. A further 75 were injured, 14 of whom placed in critical care.

A subsequent Department of Minerals and Energy locomotive (loco) inspection report ordered the proponent to commission an independent investigation to determine what caused the incident.

“The investigation will be supported by several third-party specialists and undertaken in collaboration with the original equipment manufacturers of the conveyance infrastructure,” a company spokesperson said in a public statement.

“This investigation will also draw on observations recorded from the in loco inspection and findings from the ongoing internal investigation initiated by Implats, which commenced soon after the accident occurred.”

The employer promised to implement all specific instructions for the 11 shaft winder accident under section 54(1)a of the Mine Health and Safety Act. Relevant equipment and the rest of the shaft complex will remain decommissioned until investigation work is done.

“A total of 43 employees injured in the accident have now been discharged from hospital. All employees previously receiving critical care have transitioned to normal care,” the spokesperson said.

“The group continues to provide ongoing support to the families of our colleagues lost and injured in the accident.”

Investigators made the following interim recommendations:

  • maintain all equipment used to transport workers in accordance with original equipment manufacturer requirements
  • equip elevators with safety brakes that are triggered into action if the elevator’s speed exceeds design limitations
  • implement appropriate controls to protect workers from falls when transporting workers to and from the surface in underground operations.

Click here to read the full safety alert.

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