Digging into mine safety

The local mining industry has embraced digital technologies to improve safety and mitigate risks. But there’s still much work to be done.

02 May 2024

Sabine Dall’Omo, Siemens Sub-Saharan Africa

On January 21, 1960, South Africa experienced the worst mine disaster in the industry’s history when around 900 pillars collapsed at the Coalbrook coalmine in the Northern Free State and 437 miners were killed. At the time, there was no machine capable of drilling holes large enough to rescue the miners. Rescue teams, did, however, drill smaller holes in areas where survivors were expected to be, but no signs of life were detected.

Mining has come a very long way since Coalbrook and yet the goal of achieving “zero harm” on the country’s mines remains elusive. At the end of 2023, 13 mineworkers lost their lives at Impala Platinum, the miner’s worst accident in 50 years. And in the first week of 2024, another two fatalities were reported, one at Harmony Gold’s Mponeng mine near Carletonville, and another at Gold Fields’ South Deep mine in southwest Johannesburg.

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