Lily Gold Mine in Barberton. FILE PHOTO: Vantage Goldfields website

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa's department of mineral resources on Tuesday noted the third anniversary of an accident at Lily Mine in Mpumalanga which trapped three workers whose bodies have still not been recovered.

Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyirenda and Yvonne Mnisi were trapped underground when the lamp-room in which they were working in collapsed and remains underground.

"The department supports all efforts to ensure the new owners are able to resume operations and find the container, so their families and loved ones can have closure," the minerals department said in a statement.

Two years after the tragedy, the families of the three miners were compensated by the department of mineral resources. 

The department’s chief inspector of mines, Mthokozisi Zondi, paid R200 000 for each. Workers were also paid R10 000 each with a balance of R40 000 to be paid by the new owner.

The bodies of Pretty Nkambule, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Nyirenda were trapped underground on February 5, 2016, when the container they were working in as a lamp-room was swallowed when ground caved in.

The mine stopped operations in April 2016 to allow for the extraction of the bodies from underground.

The maintenance, salary and expenses for the search-and-rescue operation drained the mine’s financial resources, and led to it being placed under business rescue in May last year.  The department’s director-general, Thabo Mokoena, said the business rescue practitioners had secured a buyer who was in the process of acquiring ownership of the mine.

- African News Agency (ANA)