167 workers rescued at DRD’s Blyvoor shaft after "act of God"

25 January 2009 | 04:49 Code : 18623 Geoscience events
DRD Gold hopes to resume production at its number five shaft at Blyvoor mine....

DRD Gold hopes to resume production at its number five shaft at Blyvoor mine on Monday night after 275 workers were trapped over the weekend after an "act of God".The company does not anticipate production losses from this important shaft.DRD Gold spokesperson James Duncan said today shaft 5 at the Blyvooruitzicht mine near Carletonville was an important shaft for the company as it accounted for about half of Blyvoor’s production of 30 000 ounces in the previous quarter. The shaft was also part of the company’s "Way Ahead" growth project at Blyvoor.Duncan said although the company didn’t have a crystal ball, it anticipated catching up with production lost since Saturday night when lightning struck a nearby Eskom power substation at 22h00, sending a surge of lightning down to the connected mine electrical substation that had an enormous blow-out and was completely destroyed. Electrical supply cables to shaft five also caught fire in the blow-out, but the fire was quickly distinguished.Production from surface and at other Blyvoor shafts has not been affected by the incident.He said the incident appeared to be an "act of God" as the protective mechanisms on the mine’s substation weren’t adequate to shield it against the lightning bolt. He said this was the kind of unforeseen incident a company attempted to plan for but could only be learnt from for to handle in future."There are some things beyond control, there is not negligence and malevolence behind everything," he said.Duncan said department of minerals and energy officials had been on the site where all the workers were brought to safety after some spent about 20 hours in rescue bays underground. Generator power was used to ventilate the shaft which maintained a temperature of between 27 and 30 degrees Celsius during the ordeal.The bulk of the DRD workers, 167 people, were trapped between 2200 and 2800 metres underground and were tired and stressed when eventually brought to surface in the shaft cages. About 108 people were working closer to surface and were rescued earlier.The deep underground rescue was achieved after power was re-established to get winders working again. Duncan said the company also had a back-up plan to rescue the workers who were in not in danger at any point if its first and quickest option had not worked out.He commented that the incident turned out to be a textbook example of how a safety incident should be handled as all the workers were carrying rescue packs and hurried to the rescue bays where they had water, light and air when the accident happened.Blyvoor is one of the deep-level precious mines in the industry with the best safety record, which emphasises safety on an ongoing basis.Duncan said the department had asked the company to make a presentation on the incident. An investigation that followed now would involve all stakeholders including government, labour and the company management.Solidarity trade union said the reality of the incident was that the incident was caused by something beyond the control of the company. Incidents of this nature were judged by the company’s response to it, while it was the union’s job to ask questions about factors such as back-up power and the time it took to rescue the workers.However, the union could only make a certain statement about the incident once the investigation was completed.

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