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

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 died.

While we mourn the loss of 19 irreplaceable lives, we remember the many years of work 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 other mines.

Today, we remember the men who lost their lives and the families, friends and colleagues who have lost loved ones. Their deaths have led us to redouble 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.

The then Department of Mineral Resources and the Mine Health and Safety Council have since introduced a range of mechanisms to prevent and mitigate explosions. Prevention has been found to be the most important mitigation control, coupled with good housekeeping and stringent maintenance of a mine’s code of practice. The track record of South African mines proves that the investment and implementation of preventive measures have paid off.

The target to which we are working towards is that of Zero Harm.