Fire knocks ERPM By Justin Brown March 6, 2003 The underground fire which has blazed for more than a month at the East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM) mine inMessage 1 of 1 , Mar 6, 2003View SourceFire knocks ERPMBy Justin BrownMarch 6, 2003
The underground fire which has blazed for more than a month at the East Rand Proprietary Mines (ERPM) mine in Boksburg, east of Johannesburg, has been a significant financial blow for the mine while the local community has protested about the health and environmental hazards the smoke is allegedly causing, Paseka Ncholo said on Thursday.
Ncholo is chief executive of South African empowerment company Khumo Bathong Holdings, which has a 60% stake in ERPM, while the remaining 40% is held by Durban Roodepoort Deep (DUR).
"The fire has been burning the timber supports in the Far East Vertical shafts' working areas. About 1,200 people from emergency rescue services have been battling the fire 24 hours a day for the whole month of February at a cost of R4.5-million," Ncholo said.
The total cost of fighting the fire is expected to be R6-million.
"Right now the fire is smoldering and should be over within the next week," he added.
The fire at ERPM started on February 1, between levels 70 and 71, about 2,300 metres underground at the Far East Vertical shaft.
This shaft produces about 85% of ERPM's gold output.
As a result of the fire, 120 kilograms of gold production has been lost at ERPM.
"We still don't know the cause of the fire. The fire official, who didn't notice the development of the fire on February 1, has been formally suspended.
The 500 miners who used to work in the shaft have been moved to other areas," Ncholo said.
He expects ERPM to return to its usual rate of production by August.
"There have been concerns about the smoke from the fire from residents in the Sunward Park area. They have formed a concerned Sunward resident group but we deny that the smoke has caused health or environmental damage," he added.
In February, ERPM hired Margot Saner, an occupational hygienist registered with the Labour Department, to carry out a detailed monitoring of the 100 different substances contained in the smoke.
Saner's report presented to management on February 21 indicated that various substances monitored were at levels below minimum contained in US standards, Ncholo said.
The Gauteng Department of Health as well as officials from the Department of Minerals and Energy have also inspected the smoke and both have found the smoke to be below danger levels, he added.
"The community doesn't believe the results of the health and environmental investigations so they need to do their own independent investigation to prove their allegations," Ncholo said.