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THE safety-related problems Sibanye-Stillwater said were a feature of its South African operational performance during the March quarter may be developing into disaster after the firm said on Thursday evening that 10 employees were "unaccounted for" following a seismic event at its Driefontein mine on the West Rand earlier in the day.

James Wellsted, the spokesman for mining operator Sibanye-Stillwater, said the deaths are linked to an quake that took place at the mine on Thursday.

In January a power outage trapped hundreds miners underground at the Beatrix operations in the Free State province, although all were safely returned to surface.

It's the fourth accident at one of the company's mines this year.

Sibanye-Stillwater produces more gold in South Africa than any other company.

Six employees are in hospital. "This suggests that greater attention be paid to issues of safety‚ particularly the protection of the lives of workers‚ as opposed to the insistence of chasing production".

Mine accidents are common in South Africa.

"The Department of Mineral Resources and all the unions have been informed and representatives are on site assisting with the rescue efforts", it noted.

"Government is the regulator, so it's for the government to see if these mines are compliant with health and safety", Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa said Friday.

One employee was fatally injured at the Driefontein operations on February 12 and two employees fatally injured at the Kloof operations on February 7. In February, almost 1000 workers spent more than a day trapped underground at Sibanye's Beatrix mine after a severe storm collapsed power lines supplying the operation.