/ 28 June 2010

Fourth worker dies after blast at Harmony mine

A fourth worker has died following an explosion at Harmony Gold’s Phakisa mine in the Free State, the company said on Monday.

The underground explosion — in which three workers died instantly — occurred on Thursday.

Josie Randall, a member of the Mines Rescue Services proto team who was injured in the explosion, died in hospital on Saturday evening, Harmony said in a statement.

The blast occurred while the team was attending to a fire on 66 Level, 2 013m below surface.

The company said that a fifth team member was in a serious but stable condition in hospital.

Harmony’s CEO, Graham Briggs, said that while the cause of the explosion was not yet known, he was extremely concerned to have been informed that while work was being done to restore ventilation to 66 Level, “booby trap” explosive devices — similar to those made by criminal miners — had been discovered 900m from the accident scene.

Briggs said the company was doing everything in its power to rid its mines of criminal miners.

“Measures include the installation of additional security fencing and biometric and security card readers at all shafts, the banning of food being taken underground, and implementation of an amnesty, of which 102 criminal miners took advantage and returned to surface.”

Briggs expressed his condolences and those of the company to the families and colleagues of the proto team members who had died.

“These men were volunteer members of a highly trained, experienced corps of mine rescue workers, extremely knowledgeable about mine safety standards, who risk their lives to save those of others in danger.

“It is tragic and extraordinary that they have died in these circumstances, and we will spare no efforts to determine the cause.”

However, at this stage of the investigation Harmony simply did not know what had happened, Briggs said.

The full investigation to establish the causes of the accident would continue during the week. — Sapa