Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., the world’s second-biggest producer of the metal, said four employees died after a fire broke out at its number 14 shaft in South Africa on Jan. 22.
“The four employees were overcome by fumes while they were trying to find their way to safety,” the Johannesburg-based mining company said in an e-mailed statement. Impala is in contact with the victims’ families and “will continue to provide all the necessary support,” together with representatives from the Department of Mineral Resources and leaders of the Association of Mine Workers and Construction Union, Chief Executive Officer Terence Goodlace said in the statement.
Impala, which owns mines in South Africa and Zimbabwe, had fatal accidents at shaft number 14 in Rustenburg in November and December last year. Both of those earlier deaths were due to groundfall incidents and resulted in the idling of operations at the mine. South Africa is the world’s largest producer of platinum, while Zimbabwe is third-biggest. Mining accounts for more than half of South Africa’s exports and employs about 446,000 people.
“We are deeply concerned about these fatalities,” the National Union of Mineworkers said in an e-mailed statement on Sunday. “Those found responsible for negligence must be prosecuted. The NUM is of the view that one death in the industry is just one death too many.”