Power outages hamper rescue efforts at Lily Mine

A total of 79 miners were rescued, while three other people are still unaccounted for.

FILE: A mine shaft collapsed, trapping miners at the Lily Mine near Barberton in Mpumalanga on 5 February 2015. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Vantage Goldfields says its operation to rescue three workers trapped underground at the Lily Mine is being frustrated by power outages.

But it says it remains hopeful that the men will be found alive.

The three workers are stuck in a metal container, which collapsed into a sinkhole on Friday shortly after the first shift started.

The rescue operation has now reached 80 hours, but the specialised teams on sight have not given up hope.

The team's efforts were bolstered this morning when the crew started to hear the sound of someone tapping against the metal container.

Lily Mine Operational Manager Mile Begg says since then, there has not been much improvement.

"We had a hard day today and continued moving material. The signal coming from the container is weaker this afternoon and that is what's really concerning us; we see things have changes and the time factor is critical now."

The hole into which the container fell is about 80 meters deep.

The container was used as a lamp room when it collapsed.

It fell into a larger hole, burying the workers between rubble and huge boulders.

The teams are trying to remove the rubble from below the container, so that it can move down, towards safety in one of the tunnels.

WATCH: Lily Mine workers still trapped - 80 hours later

The owners of the mine say time is running out for three workers and anxious community members are waiting outside the Lily Mine property for any news.

Their hope was restored this morning when officials said they could hear audio signals coming from the container.

Earlier Begg confirmed that the power supply has been restored.

He says they are still trying to remove huge rocks preventing the metal container from dropping down to safety.

"We are not going to stop, we continue to draw that pile down, but it is challenging. You have big rock problem and then it flows, then we have to do blasting."

Begg says they are trying to remove enough rock to see the container.

"As we stand here today we still can't see the container but we've heard the sounds coming out."

The family of the three workers as well as union officials have been taken inside the mine offices, while community members gather outside.