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Rovic, 27 November 1996

On 27 November 1996, a mudslide occurred 1,000m underground at the Rovic diamond mine (between Boshof and Dealsville in the Free State), claiming the lives of 20 people. Another two people were badly injured, and 54 had been in serious danger. The bodies of 16 men were never recovered, having been buried under thousands of tons of mud.

The inquest and post-disaster trial lasted for 16 months and only reached a conclusion in October 1998. The trial resulted in the owners and managers of Rovic, along with three senior managers, being prosecuted for culpable homicide for these deaths.

The inquest also made recommendations, which addressed not only the prevention of this type of disaster in the future but set a benchmark for the way companies should react in the event that such an incident recurred.

Especially important was the need for all documentation and records to be handed over to the relevant government department within 48 hours of an incident, to avoid tampering or withholding of evidence.

The court found that failure to monitor the extension of underground work in relation to water bodies in the vicinity, and lack of up-to-date mining plans were major contributors to the disaster.

The aftermath of this tragedy also resulted in amendments in regulations which govern administrative procedures, such as the appropriate distribution of up-to-date mine plans to the principal inspector of mines, along with regulations to eliminate evidence tampering.

The Minerals Council and its members are committed to a journey to zero harm and to ensuring that lessons learned from disasters such as this one are used to improve planning, systems and monitoring of safety each and every day.

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