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11 dead in platinum mine accident in South Africa

11 dead in platinum mine accident in South Africa
This is an undated photograph of Impala Platinum mine shaft 11, provided by Implats on Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2023, near Rustenburg, South Africa.   -  
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South Africa

Eleven people died in an accident at a South African platinum mine on Monday when the lift fell as it was lifting workers at the end of their day, the company that owns the mine, Impala Platinum, said on Tuesday.

"Eighty-six employees were standing in the lift, eleven lost their lives and all the others were transferred to hospitals," a company spokesman told AFP, adding that some of them were seriously injured.

In this 1,000-metre-deep shaft, some 150 km north-west of Johannesburg, the lift picked up miners at the bottom and stopped several times on the way up to "collect the miners at the end of their shift", shortly before 5 p.m. on Monday (15:00 GMT), Johan Theron, a spokesman for the mining company, told AFP.

At the third stop, "it suddenly started to go back down", he added, explaining that the system was automated.

An operator "tried to apply the emergency protocols" but the lift continued to descend and only stopped at the very bottom, when the counterweight rose to the surface and then "got stuck by jacks", causing "a sudden stop".

"Some died, others were seriously injured and others escaped with scratches", the spokesman said, adding that many of the injured had broken ankles and legs.

The rescue operation has been completed, said Impala Platinum, which said it was "devastated" by the fatal accident and that all operations at the mine had been suspended on Tuesday. An investigation has been opened.

"Our hearts are heavy for the lives lost and for those affected by this devastating accident," said Nico Muller, CEO of Impala Platinum (Implats), in a statement.

"We are deeply shocked and saddened by the loss of our colleagues and are in the process of ensuring that all next of kin have been contacted".

South Africa, which is rich in minerals, is the world's leading producer of platinum. Fatal accidents involving miners are frequent in the country, which has the deepest mines in the world and is a major exporter of gold, diamonds, coal and other raw materials.

The Johannesburg region, which still boasts many active gold and platinum mines, is dotted with slag heaps, shafts and deep trenches left by generations of miners, whose arrival during the gold rush in the 1880s led to the birth of the city.

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