Gold Fields: 'If we can't mine safely, we won't mine'

Gold Fields will shut down all operations at its South Deep, Kloof, and Driefontein mines in order to conduct an inspection of the ropes on mine hoists, its chief executive officer Nick Holland said on Thursday.

“If we can’t mine safely, we won’t mine at all,” he said.

This follows the deaths of nine workers, who plunged 58m down a shaft when a rope on their conveyance snapped at the Gold Fields South Deep mine near Randfontein on Thursday morning.

Speaking at the mine on the first day of his appointment as chief executive, Holland said the integrity of all ropes on the lift cages that lower miners into the ground would be checked for safety, before the mine restarted operations.

An investigation into Thursday’s incident has also started, with mine inspectors having already been transported 2 800m underground to the accident scene.

“We cannot tell you how long that investigation is going to take, and we can’t tell you how long the investigation [into Thursday’s incident] will take either.

“I want to convey our deep distress. It is a very, very sad day for Gold Fields and South Deep,” Holland said.

The accident on Thursday occurred between the 105 level which is 2 804m below the surface and the 110 level, 2 882m below the surface.

Eight contract employees and one Gold Fields worker were being taken down on a service conveyance from 105 level to 110 level when the rope snapped.

They fell 58m and all nine occupants of the lift were killed.

Their next of kin were still being notified on Thursday evening.

Fourteen employees have died at Gold Fields this week.

A driller assistant was killed in a ground fall at the same shaft on Tuesday, while on the same day four miners died at Gold Fields’ Driefontein mine in a rock fall.

Trade union Solidarity spokesperson Dirk Hermann implored Gold Fields to take all necessary steps to put the current cycle of accidents to an immediate end.

“There is a value problem—there is more focus on production than safety,” he said after meeting mine bosses at South Deep.

This sentiment was echoed by National Union of Mineworkers spokesperson Thamsanqa Joko, who said the mining companies had a responsibility to ensure that everyone who went down in the mines must come up alive.

“Gold Fields are not doing enough but they are not the only ones.
The others as well, they are only after one thing and that is production,” he said.

Vishnu Pillay, head of Gold Fields South African operations, however said safety was a priority as was proven by the fact that all its operations were halted after Thursday’s incident.

“Our organisation has absolutely determined that safety is the number one priority at all our operations,” he said.

Minerals and Energy Affairs Minister Bujelwa Sonjica is scheduled to visit the mine on Friday. - Sapa

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