Barberton - Government is not contributing financially towards the rescue mission of three Lily Mine workers who have been trapped underground for 10 days, Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said on Monday.
“We are not interested in bringing money here as government. We are supporting the victims here in different forms. A team of ministers has met to ensure that those affected do get help,” Zwane told reporters at the entrance to the mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
“We have discovered that the children of the trapped workers are finding it difficult to cope at school … We are sending a team to go to the school and make them aware about the importance of sticking together and saying the right things.”
He said government officials have held discussions with the mine to assist in the movement of families of the trapped miners, who have been camped inside the mine premises.
Asked if President Jacob Zuma had considered calls from groups including the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union to declare the Lily Mine accident a national disaster, Zwane said the matter had received adequate attention.
“The president is very worried about the situation. The team of ministers you see here, it is because the president has said ‘Go and and deal with the matter’.
“We believe that all the government departments that are needed to deal with the situation here are already here. Some will trickle in to ensure that we deal with this situation,” said Zwane.
Minister in the Presidency responsible for women Susan Shabangu and Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini were also at the mine on Monday.
“We have come up with all the information about them [the families] and how the situation has affected them. From that information we are getting we will be able to get what they need. That extends to issues of ensuring that experts in dealing with the trauma are here with them,” said Zwane.
The minister dismissed allegations that his department was not doing enough to enforce safety regulations to prevent injury and loss of life in South Africa’s huge mining sector.
“After this incident, we will have have a meeting with all CEOs of the industry to ensure that we map a way forward on what we see on issues of health and safety,” said Zwane.
“I think we must begin to realise that what is happening at Lily Mine is something that nobody anticipated. We have to give enough support and ensure that we focus on ensuring that we rescue or find the bodies that are still trapped under the ground.”
He said an investigative team had already been instituted to look into the circumstances around the mine collapse.
Lily Mine is currently closed and is not expected to be opened before the department of mineral resource had conducted checks at their shaft.
Vantage Goldfields CEO Mike McChesney said a team of geological experts on Monday had “strongly advised” his company not to send rescuers underground in an attempt to bring up the three mineworkers.
“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.”
McChesney said after the initial February 5 collapse there was “a further slump on Saturday, which was called a second collapse” but there was no third collapse, as reported by some media outlets on Sunday.
“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,” McChesney said.
He said that even though 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 workers would not lose their jobs.
Monday marked 10 days since Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda became 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 other workers were rescued following the collapse.