On 27 November 1996, a mudslide occurred 1000m underground at the Rovic Diamond Mine (between Boshof and Dealsville in the Free State), claiming the lives of 20 people. Another two were badly injured, and 54 had been in serious danger. The bodies of 16 men were never recovered, having been buried under thousands of tons of mud.
The inquest and post-disaster trial lasted for 16 months and only reached a conclusion in October 1998. The trial resulted in the owners and managers of Rovic, along with three senior managers, being prosecuted for culpable homicide for these deaths.
The inquest also made recommendations which addressed not only the prevention of this type of disaster in the future, but set a benchmark for how companies should react in the event that such an incident re-occurred.
Especially important was the need for all documentation and records to be handed over to the relevant government department (the Department of Mineral Resources) within 48 hours of an incident, to avoid tampering or withholding of evidence – something which unfortunately did happen in the Rovic case, with certain information even withheld from the inquest itself.
In court, members of mine management acknowledged that negligence had contributed to the disaster. The company itself pleaded guilty to the charges. The court found that a failure to monitor the extension of underground work in relation to water bodies in the vicinity, and a lack of up-to-date mining plans were major contributors to the disaster.
It is now a regulation that in every mine with underground workings, the mine manager must be in possession of the appropriate mine managers certificate and in a case where the mine manager is not in possession of such a certificate he/she may not render services to the mine for a period longer than 60 days in a period of six months.
The aftermath of this tragedy also resulted in amendments in regulations which govern administrative procedures, such as the appropriate distribution of up-to-date mine plans to the principal inspector of mines, along with regulations to eliminate evidence tampering.
The Chamber and its members are committed to a journey to Zero Harm and to ensuring that every mine worker returns from work unharmed every day.
- Pubmed.gov: Mining disasters in South Africa: the Rovic Diamond Mine disaster and the criminal liability of the mine authorities (22 January 2003)
- IOL: Rovic mine manager pleads guilty (2 December 1999)
- Mining Weekly: Diamonds of Death (5 February 1999)
- All Africa: South Africa: Rovic Disaster Could Bring About Mine Act Changes (15 December 1998)