Tragedy at Gamsberg mine sends zinc soaring

AGGENEYS, RSA – The management of Vedanta Zinc International (VZI)’s Gamsberg Mine (Black Mountain Mining (Pty) Ltd), and Aveng Moolmans (Pty) Ltd have confirmed that a geotechnical failure occurred at Gamsberg Open Pit Mine in the Northern Cape in the early hours of Tuesday, 17 November 2020.

The geotechnical failure at Gamsberg Mine occurred approximately at 01h15 on Tuesday morning at the western portion of the South Pit of the Gamsberg Mine. There were ten miners trapped at the bottom of South Pit and eight of them chave been safely rescued. Managenent’s efforts to locate and rescue the remaining two colleagues was its main priority at that stage.

All mining-related activities at Gamsberg Mine have been suspended.

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) have been informed, and the DMRE Inspectors of Mines for the Northern Cape have joined management and union representatives for an in-loco inspection at the Gamsberg mining site. A search and rescue mission has been deployed to rescue all trapped miners.

VZI Business Head, Laxman Shekhawat, said on Wednesday that: “We are doing everything possible to safely rescue the two remaining trapped colleagues.”

On Thursday, Vedanta Zinc International (VZI) confirmed that one of the two missing colleagues have been recovered from its Gamsberg South Pit site following a geotechnical incident that took place during the early morning of Tuesday, 17 November.

The deceased has been identified as Melvin Rodney Saal, 45. Mr Saal held the position of Load and Haul Foreman at Moolmans (Pty) Ltd.

“VZI confirms that the search and rescue operation to find his remaining colleague, still unaccounted for, is continuing and will remain the mine’s absolute focus,” Vedanta Zinc International said in a statement.

As a result of the accident, zinc prices climbed on Wednesday to an 18-month high after Vedanta suspended operations at the mine. VZI noted the mine will stay closed until further notice while a search continues for the miner still missing after the incident.

Benchmark zinc on the London Metal Exchange (LME) was up $2,770, the highest since May 2019. Zinc has been the best performer on the LME since the start of October, rallying about 18% compared with 11% for copper. Even before the Gamsberg accident, the zinc concentrate market was forecast to remain in deficit through early 2021 at least.

Gamsberg Zinc, Vedanta Zinc International ‘s flagship project, forms part of the Black Mountain Mining operations and is located about 30km from the BMM base at Aggeneys in South Africa’s Northern Cape Province.

Vedanta Resources Limited​ is a globally diversified natural resources company. The company extracts and processes minerals, oil and gas, engage more than 65,000 employees and contractors, primarily in India, Africa, Ireland and Australia.

Headquartered in London, United Kingdom, Vedanta Resources Ltd​​ is the holding company for Vedanta Ltd and Konkola Copper Mines, which in turn have multiple subsidiaries.

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