JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Earthquakes such as the one in which seven miners died last month in South Africa are impossible to predict and a fact of life for deep level operations there, the chief executive of the mine’s owner Sibanye-Stillwater said on Thursday.
Precious metals producer Sibanye has been the object of strong criticism from unions, local media and the government after the earthquake at its Driefontein gold mine that killed the miners. Another miner was killed there last week.
“Seismicity is a feature of mining in the region and deep-level mining layouts and support systems have been designed specifically to cope withy seismicity,” Neal Froneman said in a presentation to investors.
At Sibanye’s Driefontein and Kloof operations west of Johannesburg, Froneman said that from 2013 to the middle of May 2018, there were an average of 649 seismic events per year measuring between 1 and 2 magnitude on the Richter scale. In 2018 alone there have been 234 to that date.
Over the same period there were an average of 84 seismic events per year that were stronger than 2 magnitude. Seismic events at the operations killed one miner in 2015, one in 2017, and now eight in 2018 in the two recent quakes.