Minister of Mineral Resources, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, met with management and unions at Kusasalethu mine yesterday following the near fatal fire reported at the mine. The Minister was briefed on the fire and on the safe evacuation of 486 employees.

Speaking at the briefing, the Minister said: “I came here to satisfy myself as to the real situation on the ground. We are very grateful that all of those who went underground have been accounted for. I want to commend the rescue teams, in particular. I have met with them this morning, and I was moved to see them risk their lives to save lives. They make us proud.”

“I want to thank management for co-ordinating the rescue efforts, in close collaboration with the unions, and for the measures they have in place at the mine, and the unions for their efforts. But most of all, I want to commend the employees, for doing what they were trained to do.”

The Chamber of mines
The Chamber of Mines also applauded the “courageous” role played by rescue services in the evacuation of 486 miners during an underground fire at Harmony Gold’s Kusasalethu mine.

“Mine Rescue Services provides critical support to the industry and we wish to send our heartfelt gratitude to the men and women who volunteer their lives to save the lives of mineworkers,” chief executive Bheki Sibiya said in a statement.

Chamber president Mike Teke said: “As the chamber we believe the safety practices and standards upheld by the company are an indication of the continued commitment to zero harm by our members.”

Investigation
The fire started at the mine’s 75 level, approximately 2 300m below surface, around 9.40am on Sunday. It was contained.The fire was believed to have started during maintenance work on a bulk air cooler.

The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) will lead the investigation, together with management, unions and employees, into the cause of the fire. Findings of this investigation will be communicated in due course.

Alwyn Pretorius, Harmony’s chief operating officer, added: “We will participate fully in the investigation into the events that led to the fire. Whatever answers are arrived at, from both the official DMR investigation and our own internal enquiry, will be used to inform measures to be taken to prevent a recurrence.”

Harmony acknowledged all involved – employees, the unions, mine management and members of the DMR safety inspectorate – who worked so hard yesterday to ensure the positive outcome to a potentially dangerous situation.