Rescuers today, 2 February 2018, saved all miners who were trapped underground at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix gold mine in South Africa’s Free State province since 31 January 2018, when a power outage shut down their elevator to the surface.
No fatalities were reported and eyewitnesses report that the number of miners trapped and then rescued is 952.
The workers were taken from the mine in busloads to the change house where they will receive medical attention and trauma counselling.
The miners got trapped after a severe storm that damaged power lines.
Speaking outside the gates to Beatrix Shaft 1 at around 4.30 am CAT a visibly relieved James Wellsted, Sibanye-Stillwater Investor Relations Manager, said: “Right now we have rescued the first batch of workers and they have been taken to the change house where we will give them trauma counselling, health check-ups and more food if they are still hungry. We are very happy that the power has been restored. More groups of workers will keep on coming up to the surface and we think we would have rescued all of them in about an hour. We have not received any reports of injuries or fatalities from our rescue teams.”
Emergency power supply from backup generators enabled 64 employees to return to surface at Beatrix 1 shaft and 272 employees at Beatrix 4 shaft during the course of the following morning, but damage to the winder control systems and generators at the Beatrix 3 shaft resulting from the power surge resulted in 955 employees remaining underground at the shaft stations until Eskom power had been restored to the mine.
Management remained in control throughout and were confident that the decisions made were in the interests of employee wellbeing. Mine rescue and medical teams were mobilised and due care was taken to ensure employees were safe and had access to food and water. Detailed contingency plans were made mine rescue teams to evacuate employees through the second outlet at Beatrix 1 shaft, in the event that power was not restored.
Through a tremendous effort to install temporary power line pylons by both mine management and Eskom, power was successfully restored during the morning of 2 February 2018 and all employees were safely hoisted to surface.
Employees will undergo throughout medical examination and trauma counselling, together with their families, if required. It is expected that operations will resume on 5 February 2018.
“I wish to thank the Beatrix team and the SA Regional management for the prompt and composed response to this potentially grave situation. I would also like to commend Eskom for the professional and efficient way they rose to the challenge to restore power to the operations. This is significant rescue effort and one that all who participated in, can be extremely proud off, and it is a clear demonstration of the competence within the South African mining industry. The actions taken by management and decisions taken resulted in all of our employees returning safely to their families,” concludes Neal Froneman, Sibanye-Stillwater Chief Executive Officer.