Eighteen killed in gas blast at the world's deepest gold mine

A METHANE gas explosion killed 18 miners at the world's deepest gold mine, it was confirmed yesterday.

Teams were continuing to search 8,900ft underground at the Mponeng mine for a 19th miner who was still missing after the blast late on Thursday.

AngloGold, the mine's owner, said 15 bodies had been recovered so far, and the missing man was presumed dead.

Mponeng and its sister mine Savuka, in the heart of South Africa's gold- mining belt 50 miles south-west of Johannesburg, are the deepest in the world at 12,200ft.

AngloGold, the world's biggest gold mining company, said 39 men had been drilling a rock face when their gas monitors indicated the presence of methane. They started to evacuate the area but there was an explosion before they were all clear.

"It was in that process (of evacuating) that something happened to ignite the gas and we don't know what that something was," said Alan Smith, AngloGold executive director for South African operations.

He said there had been four deaths at the mine this year before Thursday's blast. Rockfalls, explosions and other accidents kill more than 250 and injure more than 5,000 people a year in South Africa's gold mines.

Thakiso Tladi, who has been a miner at Mponeng for five years, said: "We here at the mine are very sorry for what has happened. I am very sorry for the families." Mark Nable, a miner for 16 years, said methane was deadly. "It's tasteless, it's odourless, by the time you detect it ... it's too late."

Miners typically support families of up to 10 people from their wages.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the Minerals and Energy Minister, visited the mine. She said an investigation would be launched. "We have started preparations to make a further investigation, which we anticipate will start on Monday."

President Thabo Mbeki expressed his shock and sadness at the accident. "The President expresses his hope that no stone will be left unturned to determine the exact cause of the disaster, as well as to determine whether safety standards were adhered to," a statement said.

The National Union of Mineworkers, which represents most gold miners, condemned AngloGold's safety procedures. "It is still too early for one to comment, but the preliminary information we have is that there has been great negligence on management's part," a union spokesman, Archie Palane, said.

A spokesman for the white Mine Workers' Union demanded that the gold industry adopt the same measures for detecting methane that the coal industry uses. Methane is not as common as in coal mining, but AngloGold said it would look at introducing similar systems. "We would enthusiastically embrace any technology that would improve our safety," said Dick Fisher, a company executive.

Production at the mine is set to continue. (Reuters)

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

JavaScript Developer (C++ / C# / HTML, Java Angular.js) London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A world leading business intellig...

Application Support Analyst-(UNIX, Linux, Financial Services)

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst-(UNIX...

Application Support Analyst - SQL, UNIX, Linux

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support Analyst - SQL...

Application Support - FIX protocol, UNIX, SQL, Windows, OMS

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Application Support - FIX protoco...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition