Zimbabwe’s biggest platinum miner, Zimplats, has closed down its Bimha Mine, the largest of its four mines, to safeguard its employees and equipment following an underground collapse of the mine last month, the company’s chief executive Alex Mhembere said today.
The move is expected to see a drop in production of 70 000 ounces of platinum. Zimplats produced 240 000 ounces of platinum in the 2014 financial year which ended in June.
The collapse of a section of the mine last month was due to the accelerated deterioration of ground conditions which were first spotted in 2011. No one was injured during the collapse.
The company says it spent US$6 million on trying to address ground stability on the mine but despite these efforts there was accelerated deterioration from May this year.
“Zimplats wishes to inform shareholders and other stakeholders that a decision has now been made to cease all mining operations at the Bimha Mine with immediate effect in order to safeguard the safety of underground personnel and equipment,” Mhembere said in a statement.
“In July 2014, a collapse within a section of the underground working area of the Bimha Mine was triggered by the accelerated deterioration of ground conditions associated with a major fault, the Mutambara Shear, which transgresses through the mining area. Over recent weeks, ground conditions have continued to deteriorate and, as a consequence, it has been decided to withdraw employees in high-risk areas with immediate effect and to implement orderly closure procedures across the rest of the mine.
“A team of Company and independent advisors has been appointed to conduct detailed investigations to re-engineer and/or arrest the current mine stability concerns at the Bimha Mine.”
Mhembere said the closure of Bimha is likely to see a decline of 70 000 ounces in production but production at the three other mines- Mupfuti, Rukodzi and Ngwarati- is not likely to be affected.
Employees from Bimha had been deployed to the other mines.