The winding gear at a major South African platinum mine malfunctioned, causing an elevator to plummet, resulting in the tragic death of 11 workers and injuries to 75 others, according to the operators on Tuesday.

Impala Platinum revealed that 14 of the injured workers were in “critical condition” following the incident on Monday when the elevator descended after the miners’ shift ended.

All activities at the Rustenburg mine, located northwest of Johannesburg, have been halted as an investigation is launched, stated company CEO Nico Muller in a released statement.

Muller referred to the incident as a “devastating accident” and described it as the “darkest day in the history” of the company, also known as Implats.

The elevator, carrying 86 employees on the three-level lift, unexpectedly reversed direction and descended back down the shaft, covering a distance of about 180 meters out of the 1,000-meter shaft, Implats stated.

South Africa boasts some of the world’s deepest mines, equipped with lifts capable of carrying over 100 people at a time.

According to Implats spokesman Johan Theron, a winder mechanism at Rustenberg went into reverse, accelerating and causing the lift to plunge at high speed. While one emergency system failed to stop the descent, the lift came to an almost instantaneous halt when a counterbalance weight reached ground level and engaged safety devices.

The severity of injuries varied, with some workers suffering severe injuries, including ankle and leg fractures, while others sustained minor scratches or walked away unharmed.

Implats expressed that the failure of the lift’s safety mechanisms was unusual, given their global use in mining operations. The company is providing ongoing support to the families of those lost and the injured.

Trade unions raised concerns about safety measures at the mine, emphasizing the need for regular checks on shaft lifts to prevent such incidents.

Mining, a significant industry in South Africa, has historically experienced accidents, though safety standards have improved in recent decades. The incident at Implats adds to the toll, prompting a renewed focus on safety in the mining sector.

Quest: Oniovosa Glory.

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