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Mponeng, 29 July 1999

The explosion at Mponeng, previously known as the Western Deep Levels No. 1 shaft, occurred in an access tunnel lying 2.7 kilometres below earth’s surface. Within a short time after the explosion, the mine’s rescue teams were working underground to bring 20 uninjured people to surface and to recover the bodies of those who had lost their lives.

Classified as a “fiery mine”, methane was known to be emitted from the rocks, so extra-special safety and ventilation precautions have since been implemented to eliminate the dangers presented by the gas.

While we mourn the loss of 19 irreplaceable lives, we remember the many years of work done by members of rescue team volunteers, who are specially trained to perform their rescue work. They are on call around the clock and ready at a minute’s notice to do their duty and help in rescue operations at their own or at other mines.

Today, we remember the people who lost their lives and their families, friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones. Their deaths have led us to amplify our resolve to ensure that people working in our country’s mines are safe. There can be no weakening of our resolve to ensure that miners do not suffer harm as they go about their work. We, in the mining industry, are responsible for our own safety and, equally as important, for the safety of those with whom we work.

In July 2021, the industry demonstrated its commitment to the shared imperative of zero harm by commemorating the fourth annual National Day of Health and Safety in Mining under the Khumbul’ekhaya health and safety strategy banner, with the theme Renewed focus for our new normal.

Prevention has been found to be the most important mitigation control, coupled with the stringent maintenance of a mine’s code of practice. The industry is committed to the range of mechanisms to prevent and mitigate explosions introduced by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy. The track record of South African mines proves that the investment and implementation of preventive measures have paid off.

Moving forward, we are taking a targeted approach to address the major causes of fatalities across the various commodities through the holistic Khumbul’ekhaya strategy to prevent tragedies such as the one at Mponeng in 1999.

More information about the annual National Day of Health and Safety in Mining can be found here: http://www.safetyandhealthinmining.co.za/