London-listed diamond producer, Gem Diamonds, on Monday said two contract workers died at its Ghanghoo underground mine project in the Central Kgalagadi Game Reserve (CKGR) when the ground collapsed at the face of the tunnel development.
The two lost their lives when they got buried in an avalanche of sand during a mining accident.
According to Managing Director, Hale Mphusu, 3 people were working in that area where the 2 lost their lives since they were completely submerged in the sand and one was resuscitated by the resident mine doctor. He was admitted to Molepolole Hospital and has since been released with a clean bill of health.
While the miners are used to working through sand, Mphusu said on this particular incident the miners had hit a rock which they tried to break with a pavement breaker which led to the rush of the sand.
He explained that they were taking further safety precautions to prevent further accidents of this nature by taking a number of issues into consideration.
He indicated that in future the pavement breakers will require minimal operation from persons and will be more machine oriented and that the platform in which they will be working on will be fully covered thus not allowing any sand to come through.
A media release from Gem Diamonds says the Department of Mines has made a full assessment of the accident and has given a go ahead for it to continue operating. However, Mphusu stated that they were still closed until further notice.
Regarding the cost, the accident has caused a delay that will only allow the mine to start production in the first half of 2014 as opposed to the initial intention of starting in the 2nd half of 2013. Mphusu also stated that not only the accident had caused the delay but also the discovery of the hard rock’s which have since been discovered on the mine.
“The Company again extends its condolences to the families of the two deceased and commits itself to continuing to strive for the highest safety standards for its employees and contractors at all of its operations,” were the words of Clifford Elphick, the Chief Executive Officer.
Gem Diamonds shares were trading almost 4 percent down on Monday following an announcement by the company that the combination of the fatalities ÔÇô the mine’s first in 2012 ÔÇô and adverse ground conditions, was expected to delay the start of first diamond production until the first half of 2014.
“Although a full assessment of the likely impact upon the project timeline and overall project costs is on-going, early indications are that the adverse ground conditions encountered (and as reported in the IMS issued by the Company on 16 April 2012), together with this incident, will result in a delay of the production of the first diamonds until H1 of 2014,” Gem Diamonds said.
In April, Gem Diamonds reported the timeous start of the construction of the plant and infrastructure work, but that the advance rate of the decline was slower than expected “with challenges encountered in advancing through an area of unconsolidated sand”.
Production at the Ghaghoo mine was initially anticipated to start during the third quarter of 2013 at an initial rate of 100 000 ct/y, to be increased over time to a peak of 780 000 ct/y. While the construction of the plant and the related infrastructure and civils was currently within its first-phase budget of $85-million, and was well-advanced, Gem Diamonds continued to undertake a full assessment of the likely impact on the project’s timeline and overall project costs.
Gem Diamonds said the incident has been fully investigated and the Department of Mines has given permission for the project to continue, adding that further and ‘additional safety precautions have been put in place’.
“The Company again extends its condolences to the families of the two deceased and commits itself to continuing to strive for the highest safety standards for its employees and contractors at all of its operations,” Gem Diamonds Chief Executive Officer, Clifford Elphick, said.
The company added that the incident could affect the production of diamonds from the mine, which made headlines internationally when it was thought Basarwa were forcefully removed to pave way for the project.
The project is presently on budget with some US$ 31 million of the overall budget of US$ 85 million already spent. The impact upon the tunnel portion of the project costs is still under assessment.
The construction of the plant and associated civils, as well as the infrastructure, on the Ghaghoo project is well advanced and is on time and on budget.
Ghaghoo mine, which is within the Gope 25 kimberlite pipe, is located around 45km within the eastern border of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve.
The mine will be operated through a decline method, since it is the most cost effective access method, and construction of the first phase began in 2011. Production is scheduled to commence in 2013 at an initial rate of 100,000 carats per annum, rising steadily to a peak steady state production of 780,000 carats per annum.