In a devastating incident at Impala Rustenburg’s 11 Shaft, 11 employees lost their lives, and 75 others were hospitalized following a serious mining accident on November 27, 2023. The incident occurred at 16:54 as the 11 Shaft personnel conveyance, responsible for hoisting employees to the surface, unexpectedly started descending. The rapid descent was halted by the conveyance counterweight, which became trapped by the jack catches.
All emergency protocols were activated promptly, with paramedics and proto (search and rescue) teams swiftly mobilized. The rescue operation, conducted under challenging circumstances, successfully accounted for all 86 employees involved in the incident. The injured were transferred and admitted to four hospitals in the region for immediate treatment.
Impala Platinum Holdings Limited (Implats) CEO, Nico Muller, expressed deep sorrow over the tragic event, stating, “This is the darkest day in the history of Implats, and our hearts are heavy for the lives lost and the individuals affected by this devastating accident.”
The company is actively engaged in informing and liaising with the impacted families, in consultation with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). Collaboration with the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) is underway, emphasizing the commitment to transparency and cooperation in the aftermath of the incident.
Implats has suspended all mining operations at Impala Rustenburg as a mark of respect and to facilitate the ongoing investigations into the cause of the accident.
CEO Nico Muller extended his deepest gratitude to local medical services and emergency responders who played a crucial role in the immediate aftermath of the incident. He acknowledged the tireless efforts of the proto and rescue teams, working under challenging conditions, and expressed gratitude for the collective support during this difficult time.
Muller emphasized the company’s commitment to providing ongoing support to the affected families and colleagues, stating, “We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our colleagues and are in the process of ensuring all next of kin have been contacted.”
Efforts by medical services, including the Bojanala District and Impala Medical Services team, were instrumental in providing necessary emergency paramedic services. The swift coordination secured additional ICU beds and ambulances, mobilized additional general surgeons, and enlisted the support of three private hospitals to assist the Impala Hospital in caring for the critically injured.
As the immediate response and rescue operations conclude, investigations into the cause of the incident have commenced. Implats has assured that updates will be provided as new information becomes available, signaling a commitment to transparency and accountability in addressing the incident.
As South Africa mourns the loss of lives in this mining tragedy, the focus remains on providing support to the affected families and colleagues while seeking answers through a thorough investigation. The incident serves as a somber reminder of the risks associated with mining operations and underscores the importance of stringent safety measures to prevent such tragedies in the future. Implats, along with relevant authorities, is committed to learning from this incident to enhance safety protocols and prevent the recurrence of such heartbreaking events in the mining industry.