Thirteen mineworkers were last night still trapped about 3km underground following a seismic event at Sibanye Stillwater's Masakhane mine, Driefontein operation on the West Rand. File picture: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters

Johannesburg - Thirteen mineworkers were last night still trapped about 3km underground following a seismic event at Sibanye Stillwater's Masakhane mine, Driefontein operation on the West Rand.

“Sibanye-Stillwater regrets to report that following a seismic event at approximately 13:30 this afternoon, which caused a fall of ground ... 13 employees were unaccounted for.

“Mine rescue teams were immediately mobilised and three employees have been located and have been interacting with the rescue teams. All efforts are being made to locate the 10 employees who remain unaccounted for, and safely recover all the affected employees,” said the mine’s head of investor relations James Wellsted.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) said  the first seismic event, measuring 2.5, occurred at about 12.23, followed by another measuring 2.2 at 13.17.

"A third (seismic event occurred) five minutes later, which reportedly measured 1.6. One of the events caused a fall of ground which trapped a total of 13 workers at level 40, which is approximately 2.6km underground… Mining is very unsafe and mineworkers risk life and limb daily to put bread on the table for their families,” AMCU said.

The union said since the beginning of the year, mine accidents have claimed the lives of 26 mineworkers.

“At this same Masakhane Shaft, a mineworker perished after a mine accident in February. (This) after two mineworkers were killed at Sibanye Stillwater’s Kloof operations just a week before. “We are shocked at the current state of affairs. AMCU firmly believes that the issue of health and safety in mining has become a human rights issue,” Amcu said.

In February, 955 miners were trapped underground at Sibanye Stillwater’s  Beatrix gold mine, in Theunissen near Welkom, Free State, following a power outage. All miners resurfaced a day later.

In March, 79 mineworkers were rescued from underground following a five-hour ordeal at the mine's Kloof Thuthukani Shaft in Westonaria.

The Star