Rescuers begin work on second rescue mission route

Authorities are still calling the operation a rescue mission, in the hopes of finding life underground.

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

BARBERTON - Drilling of a second escape route at the Lily Mine near Barberton has begun as this is part of continued efforts to rescue the three mine workers still trapped underground.

Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyerende and Yvonne Mnisi are spending a third week in a container trapped underground, following a surface collapse at the mine.

Rescue operations have intensified at the mine.

Mine Manager Mike Begg says they are now drilling 800 meters away from the original entrance of the mine where the first collapse occurred.

"As we sand here tonight, our plan to drill the second escape way continues. I know we have had a bit of a delay - an unfortunate delay in the startup of that - but we will be going back up tonight. We are assured by the CTC team, that's backed up by a master drilling team, they are going to get that machine up and running tonight and we will continue to drill the escape way tomorrow. Hopefully it won't have any other issues so we get that escape way down to five level."

Authorities are still calling the operation a rescue mission in the hopes of finding life underground.

WATCH: Inside Lily Mine

There have been calls for an independent inquiry to be conducted into the cause of the collapse.

Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said the collapse placed health and safety at South Africa's mines back in focus, while Parliament's Mineral Resources and Labour Committees, said they are satisfied with the manner in which the mine handled the search for the workers.

The committees were among a number of officials who have visited the mine since the collapsed occurred.