With each passing day, the operation to rescue Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyerende becomes more of a recovery mission at Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga. The general rule of survival was three weeks without food, three days without water and three minutes without air, said a survival expert yesterday.
“Food is not the issue, longer than 30 days it becomes a crisis. But water is the real crisis situation,” said David Rabie of Survival Africa. “Given the temperatures underground, it is incredibly hot, people perspire and they need to have water all the time.” With the three trapped underground for 14 days – today included – with no water, extraction had to happen as soon as possible, said Rabie.
The department of mineral resources (DMR) announced yesterday a rescue drill rig had been secured to bore an escape route to the container in which the workers are trapped, which is about 80m underground. But the machine will only be available on Thursday and rescue operations could only begin up to two weeks after that, once the area had been stabilised.
Capable of boring a 600mm wide hole, it will have to contend with an unknown quantity of solid rock on top of the container, used as a lamp room. It is understood there would have been oxygen packs inside the lamp room, yet with the last noises from within the container heard seven days ago, the condition of the miners was precarious, a source said.
The DMR noted after the second collapse that only the ventilation shaft to the lower levels remained as an operational access point, which had to be protected at all costs. Lily Mine CEO Mike McChesney said on Saturday the rescue teams had been evacuated from the mine following the second collapse. The rescue attempt had been suspended while a full assessment was conducted.