Hartebeestfontein, 21 July 1997

On this day, 20 years ago on 21 July 1997, 18 miners lost their lives to rockfalls as earth tremors shook the Hartebeestfontein gold mine near the North West Province town of Klerksdorp.

The rockfalls followed an earth tremor measuring an estimated magnitude of 5 on the Richter scale and with an epicentre lying far below the mine’s workings at a depth of 5,000 metres. Roof supports were destroyed or displaced by the tremor.

Despite many years of research across the world, no completely reliable means have been found for accurately predicting an imminent earthquake. Updated and new standards for roof support have been introduced across the mining industry over the years as research and development have delivered technological improvements. These improvements are designed to protect miners from catastrophic events, to give them time to evacuate or find safe shelter in an affected area. Chief among these are refuge bays located near to working places equipped with oxygen, water and telephone links to surface.

The Minerals Council and its members companies remain committed to the objective of zero harm. All that is possible to prevent disasters such as that at Hartebeestfontein in 1997 is done.

Today, we all mourn the loss of the men whose lives were taken from them in this tragedy.