Barberton - The families of three mineworkers trapped in a container some 80m underground in Barberton will each receive R200 000 from the owners of Vantage Goldfields Lily mining company.
Surviving miners, who were rescued after a section of the Vantage Goldfields Lily collapsed more than a week ago, will get R50 000.
The search and rescue operation for Pretty Nkambule, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyerende was called off temporarily on Saturday after a second section of the mine caved-in. The last signal from the trio was heard last Tuesday.
“We will compensate the surviving miners R50 000, and the families of the three will receive R200 000 each,” said Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane.
He acknowledged the money was not enough to compensate the families and miners for the pain and suffering they had gone through, but the department and the country appreciated their contribution to the nation.
Zwane said the department and the mining company were committed to retrieving the three stranded workers.
“We are going to stay here until experts arrive to advise on what else can be done to continue with the operation,” said Zwane.
During the first two days, drones were used to detect any form of metal or the container the mineworkers were believed to be trapped in. When that failed, sound detection systems were used.
According to the mine, communication was established with what was believed to be the mineworkers, with the last being almost a week ago.
The final attempt was the utilisation of electromagnetic detectors to pinpoint the exact location of the container. “We will not leave the site until they are found. This is a crisis and we need to stand together until they are brought to the surface,” the minister said.
Asked if a conclusion had been made for the preliminary report for the collapse, Zwane said: “Our focus is on getting the people out and on the surface. The investigation will be dealt with after saving them.”
He added that it was not for the department or anyone to determine if they were still alive or not, and that the mission would remain a search and rescue, and not be changed to recovery until they were found.
“We are dealing with people’s lives here, people who have families. Ours is to support the families. For now let’s not pre-empt the situation and continue searching for them,” he said.
Earlier in the day, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza declared the three would be retrieved dead or alive. “We need to find them dead or alive. We are working with the mine, department and their families to ensure they are found,” he said.
However, Mabuza said all those involved in the operation couldn’t afford to throw in the towel, but would persevere in their bid to rescue the trio.
“The mine tried. They did everything within their powers to rescue the three mineworkers, but we need more help,” said Mabuza.
He added he would approach companies and other experts to assist with equipment and expertise.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), meanwhile, said the mine should be declared a national disaster.
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said the second collapse had made it impossible for the rescue mission to continue.
“There was a collapse in the early hours of Saturday morning which hampered the operation. We can’t afford to risk more lives,” he said.
More experts, such as rock engineers and surveyors, had been approached to assist in the efforts to retrieve the mineworkers.