Sibanye-Stillwater has recovered the body of the fifth and final missing mine worker after a three-day search at its Kloof Ikamva gold mine, the company said on Thursday.
The five Sibanye workers went missing on Monday after entering an abandoned section of the mine near Johannesburg, the latest in a series of fatal incidents at the company’s South African operations.
“The bodies of all five employees who entered an abandoned area on Monday have now been recovered and sadly five colleagues lost their lives in this tragic accident,” Sibanye said in a statement.
“A thorough investigation ... will be performed to understand the events and actions leading to this incident.”
Commonly known as a “madala site” (old or abandoned site) among miners, such areas were expected to be sealed at all times. It was also standard practice that workers would not be allowed into any working area until ventilation supply had been restored.
Trade unions expressed their anger this week, saying the company had failed to up its game when it came to safety.
The number of people who died in mines in the country before the end of the first half of the year was already 45, according to the National Union of Mineworkers health and safety chairperson, Peter Bailey.
“Sibanye-Stillwater is a leader in terms of the number of people who died and in relation to the fact of disaster, because it is a disaster whenever more than one person dies,” Bailey said this week.
He said they would continue to ask how the workers ended up in the disused section of the shaft.
“Sibanye-Stillwater tells us it was an abandoned site and secondly we hear that they intended to open that place in about three weeks. They would not have sealed it off because they want to save costs, so when they go back there is not a lot of costs incurred,” Bailey said.
“Besides, no shift supervisor would take workers and leave them in an area during normal working hours unless he received instructions ... all these contradicting views don’t make sense. Management said they were about 200m away from where they were supposed to be working.”
At least 20 people have died at Sibanye’s South African mines this year including seven trapped underground at its Masakhane mine in May.
Sibanye said safety issues were a concern for its investors and a factor behind a 28% fall in its share price last month. – Reuters