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US geological company to assist at Lily Mine

Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa says the US company will assess whether it’s safe to go back underground.

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

BARBERTON - Association of Metalworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa says they've roped in an international geological company to assist with the rescue mission of three workers at the Lily Mine near Barberton with a team flying in today.

Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyerende and Yvonne Mnisi have been stuck underground for nine days now.

The mission to rescue them was suspended yesterday after another collapse.

A large concrete structure at the entrance of the mine tunnel and soil from a hill next to the sinkhole broke off and fell into the same hole where the container is stuck.

Mathunjwa says the US company will assess whether it's safe to go back underground.

"They sent the team last night and they will be driving to Barberton to do the assessment because some of the pillars have cracked."

He says yesterday was a grim day after having to suspend the mission.

"It was devastating and a huge setback to pronounce that the operation has been temporarily suspended."

WATCH: Fatigue sets in for rescue teams.

MPUMALANGA GOVERNMENT STEPS IN TO HELP AT LILY MINE

Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza said 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 said 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."

LISTEN: Mathunjwa calls for Lily Mine accident to be declared national disaster.

But now he said 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 added that the rescue teams have done a sterling job and the second collapse is a significant setback.