A total of 955 Sibanye-Stillwater employees who were trapped underground have safely returned to surface after a sever storm caused the collapse of both primary and secondary Eskom powerlines supplying electricity to the Beatrix Operations in the Free State.
The storm, which hit the mine in the evening on 31 January, caused a power surge and outage at all three shafts resulting in the majority of the night shift unable to be hoisted to surface.
“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,” said the company in statement.
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.
The company applauded management who remained in control throughout the situation 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.
Sibanye-Stillwater CEO, Neal Froneman thanked the Beatrix team and the South Africa Regional management for the prompt and composed response to this potentially grave situation.
He said,“I would 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 decisions and actions taken by management resulted in all of our employees returning safely to their families.”
Employees will undergo throughout medical examination and trauma counselling, together with their families, if required. It is expected that operations will resume on Monday 5 February 2018.