US geology firm joins Lily Mine rescue bid

Pictures: Barbeton Times

It may not be safe for search teams to continue excavating underground now.

An international geology company has joined rescue efforts to find three trapped miners at the Lily Mine near Barberton in Mpumalanga, mining unions say. Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union president Joseph Mathunjwa confirmed that staff from an international geological company flew in yesterday to assist the South African rescue team.

Solomon Nyerende, Yvonne Mnisi and Pretty Nkambule were in a lamp room that was housed in a container near the entrance to the mine when the central pillar of ore, called a crown pillar, collapsed at the beginning of the morning shift on February 5.

Today is the 10th day that the trio have been trapped underground. On Saturday there was a major setback when a large concrete structure at the entrance to the mineshaft collapsed and soil from a hill next to the sinkhole fell into the hole in which the container is stuck. Mathunjwa said the second collapse was caused by rescue teams breaking through the rock to get to the metal container in which the three workers are trapped.

He said the teams had been digging underground for more than a week and were within “only a few hours’ reach” of the container. But their progress was halted when one side of the hill on the surface broke off and the entrance to the mine collapsed further. Mathunjwa said the geological company would assess whether it would be safe to return underground.

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said the provincial government had delayed requesting that the collapse be declared a national disaster because mine officials had assured them the situation was under control. He said government had not intervened at the request of mine operator Vantage Gold Fields. Although Mabuza commended the rescue team for their efforts, he said the second collapse on Saturday was a notable setback.

Vantage Goldfields has offered to give R200 000 to each of the three miners (or their families) still trapped underground, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said on Saturday.


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