A signboard near the Sibanye gold mine in Westonaria, west of Johannesburg. Photo: Reuters

CAPE TOWN - The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) in South Africa on Wednesday called for the strengthening of safety measures in the country's mines after two workers died in an accident at Sibanye-Stillwater's operation in Johannesburg.

Sibanye confirmed that two employees were fatally injured during a fall of ground accident at its Kloof Operations in Glenharvie early on Wednesday, and expressed deepest condolences to the families of deceased employees, friends and their colleagues. 

The two workers were trapped underground in the early hours of Wednesday at around 01:30am at Sibanye's Kloof gold mine's Ikamva 4 Shaft following a fall of ground, possibly linked to a nearby seismic event. 

Also read: 2 mineworkers die in fall at Sibanye's Kloof mine

Rescue personnel were immediately deployed and efforts were made to locate and free the two workers, but after 10am paramedics declared them dead as a result of a big rock that pressed them.

Operations in the affected area have been suspended pending an investigation into the incident by Sibanye-Stillwater management, together with the DMR and other relevant stakeholders. 

The department, whose inspectors were already on the scene after receiving an accident notification from Sibanye, sent condolences to the families of the workers.  

"The department extends its condolences to the families and friends of the employees and appeals to mine management and workers to continue prioritising safety," the DMR said in its official Twitter page.

This is a second safety incident at Sibanye in as many weeks, though fatalities were prevented in the preceding one. A group of 955 mieworkers were rescued alive at Sibanye's Beatrix gold mine in Welkom, Free State province, after being trapped underground for two nights following a power cut at the mine.

At the Mining Indaba in Cape Town on Tuesday, deputy minister of the DMR Godfrey Oliphant encouraged stakeholders to work with the department and the Mine Health and Safety Council towards a safe and healthy industry and meeting the target of achieving zero harm as an industry by 2024.

Have you read: Two mineworkers trapped underground at Sibanye's Ikamva Shaft in SA

Meanwhile, the Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources came out strongly against the incident, saying that legislation should be put in place to punish companies who fail to put mechanisms in place to prevent the loss of lives in mines.

Committee chairperson Sahlulele Luzipo said the death of the two miners was shocking, particularly in light of the Beatrix incident a week ago.

"Although initial reports are that the deaths occurred as a result of a seismic event at the mine, the Committee has always emphasised that more investment should be put into researching new technologies to improve and strengthen health and safety," Luzipo said in a statement.

- African News Agency (ANA)