A 28-year-old contractor, Comfort Mnisi, died after falling 28 metres from the top of a scaffolding on the premises of the Palabora Copper mine (PMC) last week. The accident occurred on Tuesday evening, the 7th of December, reportedly whilst a safety officer, construction supervisor, and an engineer were on site.

He was an employee of Multifab, a construction company contracted by PMC.
Mnisi’s untimely death comes on the heels of that of Anaph Seemela, who died in a separate incident in October after he was crushed by a diverter car. This incident raised some eyebrows at the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) who issued the mine with a section 54 notice.

A source at the mine told Bulletin that Mnisi was not properly strapped in whilst on top of the scaffolding which is in contravention of the safety regulations. The DMRE is establishing the exact cause of what is the third fatal accident in the last three years at the mine. In 2018, five miners were burnt to death after a conveyor belt caught fire underground.

This has now led to the industry to pledge to take steps to improve safety, after mining fatalities in South Africa increased over the last two years successively. According to the Minerals Council of South Africa (MCSA) as of December this year, 72 miners have died in South African mines compared to 2020 where the industry saw 60 fatalities, compared to 51 the previous year.

The spokesperson for PMC, Abby Ledwaba, confirmed the accident and said that at approximately 17:10 at the construction site, Lift II (new mine development) whereby Comfort Mnisi, a rigger, fell from a scaffolding ledger to the crusher rock box level.

He explained that Mnisi was rescued by the mine’s proto team and brought to surface at approximately 19:15, and that Mnisi was admitted to Tzaneen Mediclinic in a stable condition.

“We have conducted an In-loco investigation, and this will be succeeded by a full investigation to be conducted by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy in conjunction with the management team and organized labor to establish the cause of the accident.

The intention with the investigation is to establish the facts on the accident and ensure that we [can] develop interventions to avoid similar accidents in the future,” stated Ledwaba.

The DMRE has issued instructions in terms of section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, halting all operations involving working at heights and the use of lifting equipment.

Furthermore, the employer was instructed to review the current safety management system employed at the mine. The management team which includes the engineer and supervisors have also been suspended from taking health and safety decisions at the mine.