South Africa's Harmony Gold stops operations after mine accident

by Reuters
Friday, 7 February 2014 19:47 GMT

(Updates with ninth miner's body found)

JOHANNESBURG, Feb 7 (Reuters) - South Africa's Harmony Gold stopped all its operations on Friday to focus on safety procedures for 24 hours after nine workers were killed in a rock-fall and fire, the worst accident in South Africa's mines in nearly five years.

South Africa's third-largest bullion producer said in a statement rescue workers had located the last of the bodies of the workers who died as a result of the accident on Tuesday evening at its Doornkop mine near Johannesburg.

"This brings to nine the number of mineworkers who died, and all are now accounted for," it said in a statement.

Eight mine workers who reached a refuge bay when the rock-fall and fire occurred, were rescued on Wednesday.

Work at the mine halted on Friday for a "safety shift" during which managers were expected to revisit safety procedures with senior teams underground.

In addition to the Doornkop accident, two other workers had died in separate incidents at other mines on Thursday, Harmony Gold said.

Mining Minister Susan Shabangu said the incidents showed that companies had to do more to improve safety in South Africa's mines. Despite safety improvements since the end of apartheid, more than 100 miners die on average each year.

"It's really an indictment on the safety in the mining industry, especially in Harmony," she told Johannesburg radio station Power FM.

Harmony's share price fell 2.8 percent on Friday, adding to Thursday's losses of nearly 4 percent, because of concerns that there could be a prolonged safety shut-down at Doornkop, which produces nearly 10 percent of the company's bullion. (Reporting by Zandi Shabalala and Stella Mapenzauswa; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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