South African mining company Impala Platinum has temporarily stopped operations on 28 November after an accident at its Rustenburg mine complex resulted in the deaths of 11 employees, reported Reuters.

According to the company, a grave safety incident involving winder rope occurred at the No. 11 shaft at its Rustenburg mine.

The winder rope connected to the personnel conveyance system had broken.

The conveyance system was bringing 86 workers to the surface after their shift ended and the breaking down of the system led to the rapid descent of the workers to 1,000ft.

This accident led to the deaths of 11 employees and injury of 75 others.

Out of the 75 injured employees, 14 are stated to be severely injured.

Following the accident, paramedics and Implats’ proto teams were mobilised and all the injured personnel were hospitalised.

Reuters quoted Impala Platinum CEO Nico Muller as saying: “Today is the darkest day in the history of Impala and our hearts are heavy for the lives lost and the individuals affected by this devastating incident.

“An investigation has to lead us to understand how, with a positive signal on the safety systems, you still have an incident where a conveyance starts gravitating to the bottom and then gets into uncontrollable descent.”

Meanwhile, South African Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe announced a government investigation into the accident, after visiting the mine, reported Associated Press.

South Africa is one of the largest producers of platinum in the world. In 2022, the country saw 49 deaths due to mining accidents compared with 74 recorded in 2021.

The South African Government figures indicate a steady decline in deaths due to mining accidents in the last twenty years. In 2000, the country recorded almost 300 deaths due to accidents at several mines.

The deaths at the Rustenburg mine complex have increased the total number of casualties in the country’s mining sector so far this year to 41.

Earlier this month, Reuters reported the company commencing voluntary job cuts at some of its platinum mining shafts in South Africa to reduce expenses.