More than 170 mineworkers are killed at Kinross Mine, South Africa


A fire fighter practice mining fire rescue.Source:

Tuesday, 16 September 1986

On 16 September 1986, 177 mineworkers were killed at Kinross Mine in one of South Africa's worst mine disasters since 1946. An acetylene tank sparked flames that swept through the mining tunnel igniting plastic covering on the wiring. The flames also set fire to polyurethane foam that is used to keep walls in the mine dry). The burning plastic combined with polyurethane and churned toxic fumes that filled the shafts, choking miners to death.

Apart from the 177 mine workers killed, 235 were injured and one was reported missing. The Kinross mine disaster is one of the worst gold mine disasters in South African history. After the disaster, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) complained about low safety standards in the mines and organized a protest. On 1 October 1986, mine workers staged one of the largest protests in country. Workers stayed away from work and others held memorial services to mourn those who died in the mine accident.

Other mine accidents that e killed a large number of people include the 1960 Coalbrook Mine accident with 437 fatalities. Next was the Orkney Mine accident at the Vaal Reefs Mine in 1995 that killed 104 mine workers, followed by the a methane gas explosion that killed 39 workers at the Trans Natal Corporation. An estimated 6800 mine workers have been killed through mine accidents and more than one million were permanently disabled between 1900 and 1991. In August 2012, 44 people were killed, including 34 mineworkers who were killed in Marikana, North West following an unprotecte4d strike. .

• Anon. (1995) 'Mine disaster pushes safety to top of political agenda'[online] Available at: [Accessed 6 September 2010]
Anon. (unknown) 'South African Disaster in a Gold mine'[online] Available at:  [Accessed 3 September 2010]
• Anon. (unknown) 'This day in history'[online] Available at:   [Accessed 3 September 2010]
• International Labour Conference  (1990) Special Report of the Director General on the Application of the Declaration concerning Action against Apartheid in South African and Namibia, Geneva,  p.42
Parks, M. (1986) 'S Africa Miners Strike to Protest Deadly Fire',[online], available at [Accessed 3 September 2010]
• Swanepoel, B.  et al, (2005) 3rd e.d, South African Human Resource Management, Theory and Practice, Cape Town p. 542

Last updated : 28-Jul-2016

This article was produced by South African History Online on 12-Sep-2012

Support South African History Online

Donate and Make African History Matter

South African History Online is a non profit organisation. We depend on public support to build our website into the most comprehensive educational resource and encyclopaedia on African history.

Your support will help us to build and maintain partnerships with educational institutions in order to strengthen teaching, research and free access to our content.