Search and rescue continues for trapped Impala Platinum mine workers

A search and rescue operation continues today at Impala Platinum Mine’s Number One shaft in Rustenburg, North West, where two rock drill operators were trapped 800m underground following a roof collapse yesterday. Five rescue teams from Impala Platinum and surrounding mines are attempting to reach the 30m by 40m area on the 19th level of the shaft, where the timber and mud pack supporting roof collapsed yesterday at 10am.

The search has now passed the 24-hour mark and the teams have not yet located or made contact with the workers.

“A fairly large area has collapsed. There’s obviously a lot of loose rock and unstable ground and the teams are trying to clear the area from two different attack points. They have to be very careful in removing the clearing the rock and they are not sure where these workers are. 

“We are using a proximity detection system to locate the workers. This system works with a transponder in workers’ helmet lamps connected wirelessly to a machine and screen on the mobile equipment being used by the rescue teams.” Johann Theron, Impala Platinum spokesperson, said.

The mine said a crew of 10 people were working at the stope face when the ground collapsed. Eight other workers escaped unharmed. The rock drill operators who were trapped are 55 and 40-years-old and have been working for the company for 31 and 4 years respectively.

All operations at the Number One shaft have been suspended and an official investigation into the cause of the collapsed will be launched soon.

The mine said the workers families have been notified of the incident.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has also sent a delegation to the mine, where it represents the majority of workers. The delegation is being led by AMCU deputy president Sanele Myeza. 

“We’re hoping to find them alive, that’s all we can pray for,” Myeza said.

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Govan Whittles

Govan Whittles is a general news and political multimedia journalist at the Mail & Guardian. Born in King William's Town in the Eastern Cape, he cut his teeth as a radio journalist at Primedia Broadcasting. He produced two documentaries and one short film for the Walter Sisulu University, and enjoys writing about grassroots issues, national politics, identity, heritage and hip-hop culture.

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