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Hartebeestfontein, 21 July 1997

On this day, 23 years ago, 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 to find safe shelter in an affected area. Chief among these are refuge bays, located close to working places, equipped with oxygen, water and telephone links to surface.

The Minerals Council and its member companies remain committed to the objective of Zero Harm. Everything possible is done to prevent disasters such as that at Hartebeestfontein in 1997.

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