Mudslide kills four at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine west of Johannesburg
Four workers were killed on Saturday at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine near Carletonville, 90km west of Johannesburg. The incident, involving an apparent mudslide in a dam, is the latest setback to the sector’s safety record and casts a shadow over the Mining Indaba taking place in Cape Town.
Harmony Gold said in a brief statement that four workers had been killed “following an infrastructure maintenance-related incident” at its Kusasalethu mine on Saturday. Two other employees survived the incident, but Harmony has now had 11 of its miners killed in 2022 to date – an issue which will be of huge concern to the company’s employees, unions and investors.
An internal company message seen by Business Maverick provides more details of the accident, which involved a mudslide during routine maintenance on an underground dam.
“This dam is continuously maintained and was, recently, also cleaned during the Easter break, and again inspected two weeks earlier as part of planning for the pipe repair. The dam was reported to have ‘low levels’ of mud in it.
“The team inspected the dam, and the High-Risk Work Verification Officer phoned up to the Control Room to report the dam safe, and the team entered to perform the planned work. They progressed better than planned and started to repair the pipe,” the message reads.
“Despite the clearance given by the High-Risk Work Verification Officer, whilst they were working on the pipe repair, they were overcome by mud.”
The tragedy occurred just two days before the Mining Indaba in Cape Town, which is being held for the first time in more than two years.
The Minerals Council South Africa unveiled its latest Facts and Figures booklet at the indaba, and it highlights a worrying regression on the safety front.
“The industry continued to experience a disappointing regression in 2021, with 74 fatalities, compared to 60 recorded in 2020. This shows a year-on-year increase in fatalities of 23%. The gold and platinum sector contributed significantly to the total fatalities, with 30 and 21 fatalities recorded respectively,” the Minerals Council said.
Amid a renewed focus on safety in the shafts, Harmony’s record in 2022 will be subjected to withering scrutiny. DM/BM