Saturday 21 July 2018

Underground fire kills six at South African copper mine.

Six workers died in a fire at a copper mine at Phalaborwa in Limpopo Province, South Africa, on Sunday 15 July 2018. The incident at the Palabora Copper Mine was reportedly caused by a faulty conveyor belt, and prompted the miners to evacuate to a designated safe area and wait for a rescue team. However the rescue team were initially unable to enter the mine due to high temperatures, and were forced to wait for the mine could cool before a rescue could be attempted, at which point the miners were discovered to have died. 

Grieving relatives of six copper miners who died in an underground fire in Limpopo Province, South Africa, on 15 July 2018. Antonio Muchave/Sowetan Live.

High temperatures are not a common cause of death in mine fires, as the limited supply of oxygen usually prevents temperatures from rising too high, though as this is also the oxygen miners need to survive, low temperature fires can still be very deadly. For this reason mine operators typically install safe areas in deep pit mines, which are refuges with their own air supply where miners can wait for specialist rescue teams with breathing equipment.

This is the second recorded fatal accident at the Palabora Copper Mine this year, and brings the total number of fatalities in the South African mining industry to 56 so far in 2018. An investigation into the incident is being mounted by the South African Department of Mineral Resources, which had reportedly previously raised concerns about the safety of the conveyor belt system at the mine. The
National Union of Mineworkers has called for the families of the dead mineworkers to be adequately compensated for their loss, and accused mine management of putting profits ahead of the safety of miners.

The six men have been identified as Shaun Mashigo, 26, from Namakgale, Peter Selowa, 32, from Mashishimale, Vula Eckson Mayindi, 60, from Namakgale, Kgotso Peter Sekgobele, 29, from Maseke Moshate Village, Lebogang Elliot Maake, 37, from Namakgale., and Russel Ricardo Warne, 24, from Phalaborwa.

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