Experts to determine if Lily Mine rescue efforts to continue

The entrance to Lily Mine. (Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters)

The entrance to Lily Mine. (Siphiwe Sibeko, Reuters)

Rescue efforts for the three missing miners at Lily Mine near Barberton may continue at midday, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union leader Joseph Mathunjwa said on Monday.

Mathunjwa said they would meet with geological experts before 11am in the hope of continuing rescue efforts by midday. “I can’t say much for now. We are waiting to hear from experts if we can continue today. Hopefully rescue efforts will be continued at noon,” he said.

All search and rescue operations were suspended on Saturday after another collapse.

In a statement, chief executive of Vantage Goldfields, Mike McChesney, said they had evacuated all underground teams because of resultant unstable and highly dangerous conditions. He said the mission could only resume once a full geotechnical assessment of the stability of the open pit area and underground operations are complete.

“At approximately 5am on February 13, Lily Mine experienced a second major collapse of ground on the southern wall of the open pit area, widening the exposed sinkhole and sending more rocks and other debris into the underground mining area.

“A decision was made by mine management to immediately evacuate all underground search and rescue teams in the interests of their safety. Regrettably the search and rescue operation for the three missing Lily Mine employees, Pretty Mabuza, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi, has been suspended until a full geotechnical assessment has been completed and the risk levels of underground operations has been established,” he said.

The initial accident happened when a central pillar of ore, called a crown pillar, collapsed. The three miners were in a lamp room that was housed in a container near the entrance to the mine. The container was swallowed up in a sinkhole as big as a rugby field.

Seventy-six miners were rescued after the collapse. – News24

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