The South African miner Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. saw one of the company’s darkest days after 11 people died and 75 got injured in a malfunctioning elevator at the Rustenburg mining complex.
“Today is the darkest day in the history of Impala and our hearts are heavy for the lives lost and the individuals affected by this devastating incident,” CEO Nico Muller said.
The accident occurred on Monday during the ascent of the personnel elevator at 11 Shaft, which unexpectedly reversed direction and descended rapidly through the shaft. Despite the intact winder rope, the emergency protocol failed to immediately arrest the descent, resulting in a sudden stop at the 20th level.
The elevator still attached to the winder rope, experienced a sudden deceleration that severely impacted the 86 employees within the lift. The exact break force is not currently known as the lift was not in freefall.
Following the incident, the mining operations at Impala Rustenburg were promptly suspended on Tuesday. Operations at 11 Shaft and 11C Shaft will remain closed until all internal processes are complete, which will be conducted in collaboration with officials from the Department of Minerals Resources and Energy.
Rustenburg’s operations take place at a depth of 870 meters and account for a third of the platinum production of Impala.
According to the Implats and Minerals Council, deaths due to mining accidents in South Africa have climbed to 52 this year, which is the highest number since 2021.
“The mining industry is a difficult sector, it’s a dangerous sector, it’s a dirty sector,” Mineral and Energy Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe said in a briefing broadcast on Johannesburg-based SABC.
“When you get into mining, we understand that.”
In 1995, at the Vaal Reefs mine operated by a part of Anglo American Plc, a runaway ore train cut a cable, causing a cage with 105 workers to fall over 2 kilometres to their deaths.