IMPALA Platinum Holdings said 13 employees had tragically lost their lives, and 73 were injured in an accident on a conveyance cage at Impala Rustenburg’s 11 Shaft last November in what has been described as one of the worst mining accidents in South Africa in two decades.
In an update on the incident yesterday, the mining group said several of the injured staff were receiving ongoing rehabilitation, care and support from the company. In the last big industry disaster, 12 miners were killed in an explosion at Beatrix Gold Mine in the Free State in 2001.
“The in loco inspection was conducted and associated instructions from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) were received in December 2023, with the 11 Shaft site returned to Implats to proceed with further investigations, as well as to begin the repairs to the damaged infrastructure – under the direction of the DMRE,” the group said
Implats’ subsidiary, Impala Platinum, had submitted its investigation report to the DMRE in January 2024, which now paved the way for the DMRE to initiate formal proceedings relating to the accident, possibly during the course of the year.
“The formal proceedings are expected to take several months to complete. In parallel, Implats will conduct its own investigations, which will draw on observations and findings from the regulated investigation, but also explore potential interventions, to further enhance the safe operation of all conveyance systems across the group,” Implats directors said.
The investigations are regulated by internal, industry and regulatory protocols and procedures. Once concluded, the learnings from these investigations would be shared with the regulator and industry stakeholders.
Permission to use the rock winder at 11 Shaft was granted by the DMRE on January 9, with personnel access to underground workings authorised through the adjacent 11C Shaft infrastructure.
“This will allow a ramp-up in mined volumes to 60% of capacity over the coming weeks. Consequently, 11 Shaft mining crews were systematically re-mobilised during January 2024, with surplus labour deployed across the broader Rustenburg asset base.”
Infrastructure repairs at 11 Shaft were expected to be completed by the end of February, with a build-up to full production capacity targeted for April 2024.
All mining operations at Impala Rustenburg were halted during the week of the accident and again for the evening shift on December 5, 2023, as well as the morning shift on December 6 for purposes of attending the memorial service for colleagues who had passed away.
In the six months to December 31, the production loss associated with the 11 Shaft accident was estimated at 30 000 6E ounces. Current estimates indicated a further 30 000 6E ounce shortfall from the 11 Shaft complex in the second half of the 2024 financial year.
Meanwhile, overall, the group delivered strong production volumes and good cost control in the first half, but headline earnings per share were expected to fall more than 20% primarily due to lower PGM prices. The decline in US dollar basket pricing was only partially offset by rand depreciation and sales revenue fell.
Group capital expenditure was expected to have increased to R6.8 billion from R4.95bn due to the consolidation of capital expenditure from Impala Bafokeng and higher levels of growth and replacement capital.
Volumes benefited from the maiden consolidation of Impala Bafokeng. However, “notable” improvements were achieved on a like-for-like basis at the group’s mining and processing operations, the group said.
“Input inflation continued to ease, but rand depreciation persisted, adversely impacting the translated dollar cost and capital base of our Zimbabwean and Canadian assets.”
Production from managed operations increased by 28% to 1.51 million 6E ounces, with a like-for-like improvement of 7% from Impala Rustenburg, Marula, Zimplats and Impala Canada:
Impala Rustenburg increased production by 11% to 675 000 6E ounces. A maiden interim contribution of 254 000 6E ounces in concentrate from Impala Bafokeng was recorded.
Performance at Marula was negatively impacted by lengthy safety stoppages and 6E concentrate production fell 12% to 113 000 ounces.
Zimplats delivered a 9% increase in 6E matte production to 328 000 ounces. Impala Canada delivered a 1% gain in 6E in concentrate production to 144 000 ounces. Production from joint ventures increased by 2% to 276 000 6E ounces.
Two Rivers recorded a 3% increase in 6E in concentrate production to 151 000 ounces. At Mimosa, 6E in concentrate volumes rose by 2% to 125 000 ounces.