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Four miners die at Harmony Gold

Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu Mine in Carletonville. Picture: Itumeleng English, ANA.

Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu Mine in Carletonville. Picture: Itumeleng English, ANA.

Published May 10, 2022

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MINING group Harmony Gold yesterday announced that four of its employees lost their lives following an infrastructure maintenance-related incident on Saturday at its Kusasalethu mine, near Carletonville, in Gauteng.

The families and relevant authorities were immediately informed, and the affected area had been closed, pending an in-loco investigation, Harmony said.

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Harmony is South Africa's biggest gold miner after acquiring AngloGold Ashanti's assets in the country in 2020. Kusasalethu is Harmony’s deepest mine, with a depth of 3 388m, and extracts ore from the Ventersdorp reef. It is one of three mines that are facing early closure as they are ageing.

Harmony Gold plans to close the Kusasalethu mine in 2024. The other two mines include the Bambanani mine and Masimong mine, which are both situated in the Free State.

Chief executive Peter Steenkamp said: “We are deeply saddened by this incident. At Harmony, we view our employees as part of the larger family. Our priority is now to support the families of the deceased and everyone affected by this tragedy."

Last year, Steenkamp named 11 colleagues who died in mine-related incidents in the company's full-year results to June 30.

Harmony Gold head of communications Sihle Maake said the mining firm had safety measures in place to prevent more mine fatalities.

"In March, we had one fatality, and this current quarter we had four fatalities. We are continuously encouraged to re-enforce a proactive safety culture that is inclusive to all our stakeholders, which ensures that the appropriate infrastructure system and processes are in place and that we have the relevant planning and consistent communication and training in place. We also focus on embedding this risk management process to create a more engaged and proactive safety culture across all our operations," she said.

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The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said it was deeply saddened by the fatal incident.

The union said the country was capable of developing technology that could foretell the fall of ground, seismic events, which were most notorious for mining disasters.

"If we care about human life, the expenses or cost towards procuring such advanced technology should not matter much. It is quite disturbing that the poor mineworkers, who are earning peanuts, continue to die like flies in the industry that careless about their sweat and blood," NUM said.

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The union called on relevant authorities to speedily investigate the fatalities.

"We also call on the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy to enforce the laws and ensure that companies take full responsibilities for such incidents. It cannot be right that workers continue to die while the captains of the industry are smiling all the way to the bank for fat salaries or bonuses," it said.

Meanwhile, the Minerals Council South Africa published the Facts and Figures 2021 Book yesterday in a bid to provide credible statistics that paint an accurate picture of the South African mining sector. In the book, the council said there was a disappointing regression in fatality rates in the country’s mines. The council said there was a 23 percent increase in deaths year on year, with 74 employees killed in mining accidents, compared to 60 in 2020 in the previous year.

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“The gold and platinum sector contributed significantly to the total fatalities with 30 and 21 fatalities recorded respectively,” the Minerals Council said.

“The other commodities recorded the highest regression in safety performance with 13 fatalities recorded compared to seven in 2020, 86 percent regression," it said.

In the introduction of the annual view, the Mineral Council chief executive Roger Baxter said: “This second consecutive annual regression in safety performance measured by numbers of fatalities has prompted a range of programmes and other initiatives to address the worrying situation.

“Early trends in 2022 suggest that the regression has been halted. However, they also tell us that we have further intensive work to do,” the council said.

Harmony’s share price yesterday took a knock following the company's announcement, tumbling 6.7 percent as of 3.28pm. While the company’s Friday trading session ended at R61.77. On Monday, the company's share price was trading at R57.65.

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