June 11, 2018 / 5:25 PM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Three miners killed in accident at Sibanye gold mine in South Africa

(Adds union comment)

JOHANNESBURG, June 11 (Reuters) - Three gold miners were killed in South Africa on Monday at a Sibanye-Stillwater plant and the company said rescue teams are searching for two others.

At least 18 people have died at Sibanye’s South African mines this year including seven trapped underground at the Masakhane mine in May.

Sibanye said five employees entered an abandoned working place at its Kloof Ikamva mine near Johannesburg and were killed in an incident the company is investigating.

“We are not sure what happened,” spokesman James Wellsted said. CEO Neal Froneman has said seismic events are a fact of life at South African mines.

“It seems that disasters have become the order of the day at Sibanye Stillwater and as NUM we are highly disturbed and angered by this,” National Union of Mineworkers said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”

Sibanye noted in a recent operational update that last month’s disaster was a concern for its investors and a factor behind a roughly 28 percent fall in its share price last month.

In all, 88 people died in mines in South Africa in 2017 and 73 died the previous year. Prior to that, numbers of fatalities had fallen for nine years. The country has produced a third of all gold mined since records began.

Safety matters for investors in South Africa’s gold industry. The country is home to some of the world’s deepest mines. Sibanye-Stillwater is South Africa’s biggest producer. The company also produces platinum and has operations in the United States. (Reporting by Nqobile Dludla Editing by James Macharia and Matthew Mpoke Bigg)

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