Lily Gold Mine in Mpumalanga. Photo : Supplied.

Cape Town - Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on Monday announced his department had served the Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga, with a Section 54 notice for a mine closure.

This is while the operations to rescue three trapped workers continues.

The management at the mine was on Monday morning reported as saying that rescue teams had established audio communication with the trapped miners, raising hope the three were still alive.

This follows an accident at the mine on Friday in which 90 workers became trapped after the crown pillar collapsed at the start of the morning shift.

Most of them were rescued that day.

Also read: Hopes, prayers for trapped miners

Speaking after officially opening the Investing in African Mining Indaba in Cape Town, Zwane said he had spent seven hours on Friday engaging with the management of the mine.

“We have agreed with the management of Lily Mine that, under these conditions, we have to close down the mine until the situation is normalised, hence we issued them with Section 54.

“We went on site ourselves, did preliminary investigations and saw for ourselves what the situation was like. This is a great example of how Section 54 should be issued instead of issuing it while sitting in Pretoria,” Zwane said.

According to Section 54 of the Mine Health and Safety Act, the inspectors of the department have the authority to halt the operations at a mine if they have reason to believe that any occurrence, practice or condition may endanger the health and safety of people at the mine.

In 2004, the mining industry criticised the government for intensifying its use of Section 54 work stoppages and questioned the competency and efficiency of its implementation.

Zwane said, once the rescue operations and the investigation are finished, the department would review its Section 54 notice to the Lily Mine and take necessary steps.