Sub-Sahara Mining & Industrial Journal
Health and Safety

Sibanye-Stillwater to probe waste rock conveyor collapse as labour wants answers

Labour wants answers after Sibanye-Stillwater informed markets on Friday that four mineworkers had died at its Balfour plant after a rock conveyor collapsed.

Sibanye’s share price fell on the news, closing 4.44% lower on the JSE on Friday.

Sibanye said in a statement on Friday that a full investigation into the exact cause of the incident was under way and all relevant stakeholders had been informed.

Sibanye said the incident occurred on Thursday, April 13 at its Burnstone project, located near Balfour, where a newly constructed surface waste rock conveyor had collapsed.

The incident involved the use of a 140-ton crane to lift the pulley from the ground and place it in position. As the pulley was being aligned, the conveyor belt structure collapsed

“The collapse occurred while five contractor employees were installing a head pulley of the conveyor infrastructure. Tragically, four persons were fatally injured, while a fifth person sustained serious injuries and is currently receiving treatment,” Sibanye said.

The board and management of Sibanye-Stillwater extended sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the deceased.

In March,  the diversified metal group posted a 43.7% decline in profit year-on-year of R19 billion In its results for the six months and year ended December 31, 2022 as Eskom woes weighed.

In response to the incident, in which a conveyor belt collapsed during the installation of a head pulley, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) called for a thorough investigation.

“As the NUM we are demanding an immediate investigation (into) the incident. No stone should be left unturned as one death is one too many”, said Masibulele Naki, NUM national health and safety secretary.

The Association of Mining and Construction Workers Union (Amcu), which is reported to have a larger representation at Sibanye, would not be drawn to comment.

“I’m afraid there is nothing I can tell you now because I was not there, perhaps later,“ Amcu general secretary Jeff Mphahlele said.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) said it too was saddened by the incident.

The department’s Mine Health and Safety Inspectorate, which visited the mine, has commenced a full investigation in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, to determine the cause of the incident.

“The health and safety of mineworkers remain a priority for the government. Employers are urged to be vigilant in the management of health and safety of mineworkers. We must all work tirelessly towards achieving zero harm in South African mines, thereby ensuring that each employee returns home unharmed every day,” it said in a statement.

The Minerals Council South Africa also extended its heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of the four people who died and one person who was injured in the incident at the Burnstone mine. It reaffirmed its continued resolve to drive the journey to zero harm.

Japie Fullard, the chair of the Minerals Council CEO Zero Harm Forum, said: “The 34% reduction in fatalities we achieved in 2022 to the lowest number of fatalities ever shows we are able to make step changes in our quest for zero harm. We will study the incident at Burnstone and take the lessons from it to ensure there is no repeat of this tragic event.”

Before the Burnstone incident, the industry had recorded 11 fatalities by April 11, 2023, which compared to 13 deaths in the same period a year earlier.

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