Six miners have died underground at a copper mine in Limpopo
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union said the fire broke out in the early hours of Sunday morning at a Phalaborwa Mining Company mine in eastern Limpopo.
"The fire reportedly started at conveyor belt 5, and when smoke was seen by a logistic belt operator, the workers were instructed to evacuate the area to the closest refuge chamber," AMCU said in a statement.
According to Eyewitness News, the Palaborwa Mining Company confirmed on Monday morning that all six workers were now accounted for. A rescue team reportedly saved one of the workers.
The mine is investigating the incident.
A spokesperson, Lydia Radebe, reportedly said:
"Our management, labour and all other relevant teams are currently at the mine. The preliminary investigation is underway, so we will know the facts as the investigation unfolds."
Amcu reportedly said, "The proto team at the mine itself was reportedly not ready to complete the rescue, and therefore another proto team from Burgersfort had to be called in."
The union said this team only arrived around 11:00 on Sunday.
"They managed to recover one living and two deceased mineworkers from the mine, but the high temperatures which rose to [between] 64 to 67 degrees Celsius, made the rescue efforts almost impossible."
AMCU said at around 19:00 on Sunday, three other miners were confirmed to have died in the refuge chamber.
"Breathing is difficult due to ventilation pipes being damaged by the flames, and communication lines have also been compromised," the statement said.
"AMCU sends heartfelt condolences to the loved ones and colleagues of the five fallen mineworkers."
The National Union of Mineworkers expressed its shock at the deaths.
NUM is deeply saddened and shocked about the death of five mineworkers that died after the eruptions of a fire yesterday morning at Phalaborwa Copper Mine in Limpopo. @morninglivesabc @SowetoTVchannel @eNCA pic.twitter.com/Sz18n61Dzd— @COSATU Today (@_cosatu) July 16, 2018
This follows the deaths of over 20 mineworkers at Sibanye-Stillwater operations this year alone.
The latest incident was in June, when a 35-year-old winch operator was killed when he was hit by a scraper underground.
In May, seven miners died when 13 workers were trapped underground at Sibanye-Stillwater's Driefonteing operations.
- With News24