06/02/2015 Family members and friends of the three trapped miner workers pray for their safe return near the entrance of Vantage Goldfields Lily Mine where rescue operations are underway to locate and recover the three missing miners. Picture: Phill Magakoe

It has been a long and frustrating weekend for families of three mineworkers who were yet to be located late on Saturday after a cave-in at the Vantage Goldfields Lily Mine in Barberton, Mpumalanga.

Men and women - possibly wives and girlfriends - camped outside the gates of the mine, where fortunately close to 80 mineworkers were rescued.

For the safe return of the three still trapped below, those who gathered outside the gates sang hymns and said fervent prayers.

The traffic in and out of the mine premises comprised of ambulances ferrying the injured to hospitals and bakkie loads of men and women arriving to establish the fate of their loved ones.

Many have been keeping vigil outside the gates since Friday night.

The three workers, Pretty Nkambule, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyerende, were trapped under tons of rubble and rocks when the collapse occurred on Friday morning.

At least 87 mineworkers were rescued on the day.

The three were trapped when the container they were in, a lamp room containing safety equipment used by mineworkers, was buried.

“Its been a long wait and its frustrating,” said Kennedy Nyerende, Solomon’s father.

Nyerende hoped that his son would emerge alive when the rescue mission ends.

“What can I do? What can we say? Maybe they are still alive, but chances of survival are slim. I am preparing myself for the worst,” Nyerende said.

A tired and emotional Rachel Dlamini, Mnisi’s aunt, spoke about the toll the wait has taken on all those present at the mine.

She said they were realistic about her niece’s chance of survival and had placed their faith in God for her safe return.

“We have been here since 10am on Friday. We have experienced so many emotions during these past two days. It’s hard because we are just waiting,” said Dlamini.

“We were hoping we would see Yvonne when we arrived; we saw many other workers coming out of the mine. We were crushed when we didn’t see her.”

Another family member, who previously spoke to Independent Media, reiterated the sentiments expressed by Nyerende and Mnisi, but said they had started preparing for the worst. He said it’s a harsh reality to accept, but there was little they could do to change the situation.

“We can’t take it any more. We feel like going in and digging them out ourselves, but we can’t. We can’t eat, we haven’t slept since Friday and we’re drained,” said an emotional Jabulani Mazibuko. His sister-in-law is Nkambule.

“Crying doesn’t help any more. We have accepted that she is not alive. If we could have her body back and be able to mourn her properly,” he said.

Immediate family members were taken inside the mine and kept abreast of the rescue mission.

Mike Begg, operations manager at the mine, said they had started using drones in their bid to rescuing the remaining workers.

“We are using the drones to determine the ground infrastructure and location of the container and we are sure this will assist us with our search because we are accessing areas we weren’t able to check before,” said Begg.

“There are three alternating rescue teams working around the clock. The progress is slow, but we will not rest until they are out.”

Minister of Mineral Resources Mosebenzi Zwane, who also made a point of visiting the mine, said an investigation would be carried out to determine the cause of the collapse.

Sunday Independent