Barberton – A team of geological experts on Monday advised Vantage Goldfields not to send people underground to attempt to rescue three trapped Lily Mine workers, who have buried for 10 days, CEO Mike McChesney said.
“The update is that we now have extensive input from the geological consultants. They have made a full assessment over the last 24 hours on the status of the open pit and the stability thereof as well as the underground workings.
“Their strong advice to us is that we should not send people down the ventilation shaft to continue the rescue mission at present,” McChesney told reporters at the mine entrance.
“The open pit remains in a settlement stage, as does the shaft. The collective decision we have taken is that the rescue mission is still on hold and we anticipate coming up with a number of other ideas over the next 48 hours.”
He said the mine would update media after the two days on what the next step would be.
McChesney said after the initial February 5 collapse, there was “a further slump on Saturday, which was called a second collapse”, but there was, in fact, no third collapse as had been reported by some media outlets.
“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 in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
He said that although the scaling that happened on Sunday was “traumatic”, it was not unexpected.
McChesney said he hoped the mine would continue with its operations after this accident, and that workers would not lose their jobs.
On Saturday, Vantage Goldfields offered R200 000 to each of the three miners still trapped at its Lily Mine.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane announced on Saturday that there was also compensation for the 76 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 were 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.