Fears of closure add to Lily Mine workers’ woes

Churches and the community join in prayers at the mine for the three Lily Mine workers who have been trapped underground for eight weeks and counting. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

Churches and the community join in prayers at the mine for the three Lily Mine workers who have been trapped underground for eight weeks and counting. Picture: Matthews Baloyi

Published Apr 4, 2016


Johannesburg - Shadrack Mdluli, 31, prays everyday that his wife, Yvonne Mnisi, 23, will one day be rescued alive from the belly of the earth eight weeks after the container in which she worked was swallowed by the ground and covered by rocks.

Mdluli spoke about how he found comfort in praying daily for the safe return of his wife and two of her colleagues, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda, who were also trapped underground at Australian-owned gold producer, Vantage Goldfields’ Lily Mine, outside Barberton, Mpumalanga.

Read: Alternatives sought to reach Lily Mine container

The trio were working in a lamp container, when the entrance of the mine collapsed, leading to the container falling into the ground and being covered by huge rocks, while the lives of hundreds of other miners were at risk.

The search and rescue operation to recover the trapped workers has yet to be successful, and the mine has indicated that recovery attempts will only resume in six months.

New shaft

“We are waiting for the mine bosses to continue with searching for Yvonne. They said they will drill a new shaft to search for my wife and her colleagues,” Mdluli said.

Mdluli spoke of his agony and that of his two sons, Blessing, 10, and Junior, 5, since their mother was trapped.

“Everyday our children ask me when their mother will come back home? I tell them she is at work, and will come back soon,” Mdluli added.

“It has been tough. I pray for her, and I hope that all three will be found alive. There is hope they are alive, I live in hope that they will return home,” he said.

Mdluli lives in Louieville, a small community on the doorstep of the mine outside Barberton, with his family.

And like many of his neighbours, Mdluli works at the Lily Mine as a front load operator.

He has been at home since the underground operations ground to a halt after the accident. He says he gets paid a salary, but the wait for the rescue mission is becoming more difficult to watch.

In addition, he feels Minister of Mineral Resources, Mosebenzi Zwane, and the Vantage Gold management have to meet their promise of paying out R50 000 to each of the workers who were rescued earlier this month and R200 000 for the three workers who are still underground.

“Zwane promised people money, but nobody has received anything so far,” he said.

A clerk at the mine who spoke on condition of anonymity said the workers lived in fear that the mine would close soon as its financial resources were being depleted by the rescue effort.

“We are all afraid that the mine will close anytime from now. They (management) have informed us that they do not have money because they have to fund the rescue operation,” the person said.

“I am not only worried about losing my job, but about my siblings who have bursaries through the mine. They will lose their bursaries if the mine closes. What must I do if the mine closes?”

On Thursday trade union Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis called off a press conference where the union planned to disclose the reasons for the mine collapse.

Crucial phase

The union said it had decided to only disclose the confidential information to the Department of Mineral Resources and the management of the mine due to the sensitivity of the information and the crucial phase within which the investigation was currently.

“We decided to initially deal with the information as confidential as it is essential that the inquiry should be allowed to take its course. In this way we want to prevent the mine from closing down and hundreds of workers losing their jobs,” Du Plessis said.


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