29 July 1999
On 29 July 1999, a team of AngloGold mineworkers at the Mponeng mine in Carletonville accidentally drilled into a pocket of flammable methane gas in the rockface. They were lengthening a tunnel to a working area, which required the drilling of deep holes into rock to check for pockets of water or gas, when the explosion took place. Though they were following the correct procedures, the gas rapidly spread throughout large parts of the mine as result of the immense pressure. The group sounded the alert when they detected the methane and evacuation started immediately, but the gas was ignited during the process of evacuation. Twenty highly trained rescue workers lifted twenty miners from the mine immediately after the accident. They were transported to hospital where they were all given a clean bill of health. The rescuers found seventeen bodies in the 2 700 meters shaft and continued to search in poorly ventilated tunnels filled with poisonous clouds of smoke and gas until they found the eighteenth man just before dawn, fatally injured. Another corpse was found later, bringing the total death toll to nineteen. The explosion did not disrupt mining, which continued the next day. An inquiry found that AngloGold was not responsible for the deaths of the miners and could not be held liable. Sources: Wallis, F. (2000). Nuusdagboek: feite en fratse oor 1000 jaar, Kaapstad: Human & Rousseau. http://www.cnn.com/WORLD/africa/9907/30/s.africa.explosion/