Mpumalanga govt. steps in to help at Lily Mine

Premier David Mabuza says they delayed intervening at the request of Vantage Gold Fields.

Sink hole at the Lily Mine in Barberton. Picture: Vantage Goldfield

JOHANNESBURG - The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) says the second collapse at the Lily Mine near Barberton on Saturday was caused by rescue teams breaking through the rock to reach the metal container in which three workers are trapped.

The teams had been digging underground for more than seven days when they were within only a few hours reach of the container.

The progress was halted when one side of the hill on the surface broke off and the entrance to the mine collapsed further.

Three workers have been stuck underground since last Friday and sent their last audio signals on Tuesday afternoon.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa says the fall of ground yesterday indicates they are on the right path.

"We were encountering this fall of ground because we were doing something. If we were not doing anything, we wouldn't have this fall of ground. Therefore we are tapping closer to the container."

But he says once international rock experts are called in, they may have to change their approach.

"Those specialists may tell us we need to attack it from another angle."

The rescue mission has been called off until the experts declare it safe to return underground.

Meanwhile, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza says the provincial government delayed requesting that the collapse be declared a national disaster because mine officials assured them that they had the situation under control.

Nine days have now passed without any success in finding three trapped miners and government has realised it's time to escalate the operation.

Mabuza says they delayed intervening at the request of Vantage Gold Fields.

"The message that we got was that the mine would handle this. We are getting information each day that they are getting close to the container, they can hear the sound, and they're close."

But now he says they now need help from different provinces.

"We are now going to have our own discussions and see who can come in and help and at what cost because the mine management, I think they've tried their best."

Mabuza says the rescue teams have done a sterling job and the second collapse is a significant setback.