Business Maverick


Crash kills 18 construction workers from De Beers’ new Venetia mine in Limpopo

Crash kills 18 construction workers from De Beers’ new Venetia mine in Limpopo
The crash on the R572 in Musina, Limpopo, on 17 September 2023. (Photo: X / @Limpopo_Traffic)

Eighteen Murray & Roberts workers and a driver were killed on Sunday on the R572 at Musina in Limpopo when the bus transporting them to De Beers’ Venetia mine collided with a lorry and burst into flames. The employees were members of the National Union of Mineworkers. The tragedy underscores that while mining is becoming safer, there are plenty of hazards for workers even off-site.

The tragedy took place at around 4pm on Sunday and is one of many examples of how shockingly dangerous South Africa’s roads are.

“The two vehicles caught alight and emergency services’ preliminary reports indicate that 18 of the Group’s employees, along with the driver of the other vehicle, sadly lost their lives, with four seriously injured and rushed to hospital,” construction group Murray & Roberts said in a statement. 

The NUM said the government needed to address the ongoing decay of South Africa’s road network.

“We are saying enough is enough about the loss of lives on the public roads. Government should do something to upgrade their roads… We are losing workers due to road accidents,” NUM North East Regional Secretary Phillip Mankge said in a statement.

The tragedy is a poignant reminder of the dangers that all South African road users face and, for mine workers, comes against the backdrop of improving safety in the sector.

Last year, South Africa’s mining sector had a record year for safety, with a death toll of 49 — still a shocking number at almost one fatality a week, but a vast improvement over just a few years ago. In 2008, for example, 170 miners were killed at work in South Africa.

This latest accident alone claimed the lives of more than a third of last year’s total accidental fatalities at the mines. 

The disaster also casts a shadow over a relatively rare piece of good news in the mining sector – an old company starting a new mine.

De Beers in July recorded its first production at Venetia’s new underground mine. This replaces the old open pit operation which ceased in December 2022 after more than 30 years of production.

Read more in Daily Maverick: De Beers records first production from new South African underground mine

Construction of the underground section – at a cost of $2.2-billion, the biggest investment in South Africa’s diamond sector in decades – began in 2012 and is around 70% complete. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Mervyn Bennun says:

    Even on bad roads, vehicles can pass each other safely if properly driven. Perhaps the statement will cause surprise, but we do not really know why many road traffic “accidents” happen. Saying that they are due to driver error explains nothing. South Africa needs a comprehensive enquiry, in the form of a commission, to take evidence and to make recommendations based on a deeper understanding of road safety. The research model is aviation, which has become the safest form of transport because it was realised how little was understood about why so many aircraft in perfect condition and piloted by experienced crews were crashing. Braaivleis and dinner table expertise is not good enough; we know WHAT happened, but we have insufficient understanding of WHY, and especially of what human factors are involved which causes drivers to behave as they do. Adapting what the astronaut Frank Borman said, “Superior drivers uses their superior judgment to avoid situations which require the use of their superior skills”. What stops drivers from using good judgment? We simply do not know enough. Rigorous and planned research is needed.

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