Three government ministers were at the Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga, on Monday morning where three miners had been trapped for 10 days.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane, Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini and Minister in the Presidency responsible for women Susan Shabangu met with the anxious families of Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda.
In a recorded encounter viewed by Africa News Agency, Shabangu told the families that the ministers had been sent by President Jacob Zuma.
“We did not just say let us go there. The president said we must come here and represent the national government. We have come to help the families in this place. We have come to express sympathy,” said Shabangu.
“We have come to co-operate with you so that the container can be found. We have hope that it will be brought out. We have come here with civil servants including social workers and psychologists.”
She added that government wants to ensure that children of the trapped miners continued with schoolwork in the meantime.
“We came to pray that God will help us rescue your relatives. We are also talking about the company to see how we can help,” she said.
Zwane encouraged the families to remain strong and resilient.
“No matter how much it takes, we should not look back. May the Lord give you strength. We are here to give you support,” said Zwane.
On Monday morning, Vantage Goldfields chief executive Mike McChesney said rescuers would be going underground to attempt to bring the trio to the surface only when results of a geotechnical assessment permitted.
McChesney, however, said that, after the initial collapse on February 5, there had been a further slump on Saturday, which was called a “second collapse”, but there was no third collapse on Sunday, as had been reported elsewhere.
For the general public watching the drama unfold the distinction between a further collapse and a scaling of the collapse might seem like a technicality, but McChesney added: “I must just inform you that this is not a third collapse. This was scaling of the open pit or the sinkhole.
“It is the slabbing of the rock that is on the sides and has been weakened at the bottom so it slabs or scales down,” said McChesney, speaking at the mine shaft.
“It makes it very dangerous for the rescue operations underground where the operation was being conducted and will be resumed. Until we understand the geotechnical movement around our shaft, we cannot put people (rescuers) down that shaft.”
Several vehicles from the police’s VIP protection unit could be seen doing rounds inside the gated mine premises on Monday morning. Journalists were kept outside the gates.
McChesney said the rescue mission had not resumed after it was halted on Saturday.
“As I’ve notified everybody, on Saturday afternoon we had to withdraw everybody, suspend the rescue operations pending a full geotechnical assessment,” said McChesney.
“Now the situation is that the engineers and geologists are on site, monitoring the movement in the pit. Until we have their results over the next few hours and days, we will keep the situation as it is.”
On Saturday, Vantage Goldfields offered R200,000 for each of the three miners still trapped at its Lily Mine.
Zwane announced on Saturday that there was also compensation for the miners who had been rescued from the mine on the day of the collapse.
“I’m saying I have engaged with the mine. The effort that I have announced [the money] is specifically from the mine,” Zwane told reporters.
“After our engagement with the mine we agreed that ‘Let’s look after our workers’. After all, these people work for all of us, we agreed.
“We came to an understanding that those who survived will each get R50,000 and for the three still trapped underneath the soil, by the time we get their container above the ground, each of them gets R200,000.”
He said the mine had been “selfless” in the deliberations.
Monday marked 10 days since Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda had become trapped underground when the container they were working in fell into a sinkhole created by a collapsed crown pillar before being covered by huge rocks.
Seventy-six mineworkers were rescued following the collapse.
– African News Agency (ANA)