An earial view of the drilling machine that Lily Mine is using to create an escape route for the trapped mine workers.

Johannesburg - Lily Mine management was expecting rescuers to soon go down a secondary shaft that has just been completed to look for the miners trapped underground since February 5.

Pretty Nkambule, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyendere were on duty that day when the container they were working in fell into a sinkhole.

Rescue operations commenced immediately, but had to be halted so that a secondary shaft could be drilled. That was to ensure that there is an escape route for rescuers and that they don't find themselves trapped underground while searching for the three miners.

The mine's spokesman, Coetzee Zietsman, confirmed yesterday that the drilling to create the shaft was now complete and a casing had been put into the hole to ensure that the shaft doesn't fall in.

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“The shaft is 800m away from the sinkhole and 80m deep to link up with level 5. Rescue workers will be able to use this as an escape shaft in case the ventilation shaft becomes unavailable.

“The main shaft became unusable after the second rockfall, and the only working shaft was the ventilation shaft. This is the same shaft the workers who were underground during the first rockfall used to escape from the mine,â” he said.

A team of experts were sent underground after the shaft was completed to establish whether it was safe to send the rescue team down there to look for the miners. Zietsman said the team were now compiling a report for management on their assessment of the new shaft. “We expect to send a rescue team underground soon,” he said.

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