- South Africa has closed down two of Africa's largest gold mines, Gold Fields LTD's Driefontein and Kloof, after earth tremors killed three miners and wounded four others underground, early this week.
Gold Fields spokesperson Willie Jacobsz could however not say how long the mine's closure would last.
"Our main focus for now is to continue the search for the trapped worker," Mr Jacobsz said.
He said shaft at Driefontein, one of Gold Fields' key mines located near Johannesburg, had been hit by two tremors, and a team was searching for trapped worker, adding that four of them were injured, with two seriously wounded.
According to Mr Jacobsz, government today inspected Driefontein mine, which is situated about three kilometers underground.
The fatalities are a setback for Gold Fields Chief Executive Officer Nick Holland, who was forced to shut other unsafe mining areas, including South Deep mine, after it killed on 1 May.
Mr Holland explained that, "we won't mine if we can't mine safely.'' He also added stoppages would hurt Gold Fields' efforts to boost output.
He told media last week that in past four or five quarters, group was losing an average of about 700kg a quarter due to safety stoppages, but losses had eased as safety improved.
Driefontein and Kloof are located west of Johannesburg in Witwatersrand area, which has some of world's deepest and most dangerous gold mines.
Gold Fields, Africa's biggest miner of metal after Anglo Gold Ashanti Ltd, reportedly produced 928,000 ounces at Driefontein in fiscal 2008 and 821,000 ounces at Kloof.
South Africa is said to be currently reviewing results of a mine safety audit ordered after more than 3,000 Harmony Gold Mining Co. workers were trapped underground in Elandsrand mine a year ago.
Government began suspending mining operations following fatal accidents after mine deaths rose more than 10 percent last year to an estimated 221 from a year earlier.
Gold Fields reportedly advanced R2 or 2.8 percent to R74.75 as of 2:34 p.m. in Johannesburg, giving the company a market value of R49 billion (US$4.9 billion).
Group has gold mines in South Africa, Ghana, Australia and Peru. South Africa reportedly has an appalling safety record and about 140 workers have died in mines so far this year, compared to 221 in 2007 and 200 in 2006.
Gold Fields has had worst record of deaths among mining companies, and it has vowed to cease mining if it cannot mine safely. At the time, it shut part of Driefontein for safety improvements, group also closed main shaft at its Kloof mine in South Africa for safety repairs.
South African mining companies are said to have suffered production losses after fatalities due to routine shutdowns ordered by government for investigations and work stoppages by union members, who have vowed to stop work for a day to mourn death of colleagues.
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