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'Govt has done very little to assist with Lily Mine rescue operation'

A container with three workers inside plunged into a massive hole caused by a rock fall in February.

FILE: One of the mine rescue vehicles seen entering the Lily Mine in Mpumalanga. Picture: Kgothatso Mogale/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) leader Joseph Mathunjwa says despite several attempts to retrieve the container from Lily Mine, government has still not taken any action.

Mathunjwa is speaking at the Serious Social Investing conference at the GIBS Institute in Johannesburg.

A container with three workers inside plunged into a massive hole caused by a rock fall at the Barberton operation in February.

The rescue operation cannot continue due to safety reasons.

Mathunjwa says there were promises to get the container out within six months.

"They promised that they will start within six months and that the container will be retrieved. We haven't even started to moving even one cubic of the soil the workers are still there and the government is quiet. It's quite sad, that's capitalism."

CALLS FOR A PROBE

Last month, Amcu said the department should investigate the cause of the collapse.

Vantage Goldfields announced that it could take recovery miners up to six months to reach the container through a new entrance.

Mathunjwa said the department should not obsess over the new decline shaft at the mine and forget the independent inquiry.

"The safety of mineworkers is still not regarded as a priority. This is informed by the trend and the manner in which these incidents are happening."

He said the union was concerned about a growing trend of mine bosses sacrificing worker safety or using retrenchments to grow profits in a declining industry.

"This takes place in a climate of growing insecurity created by the waves of retrenchments in all sectors of mining."

Furthermore, Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) called for a thorough investigation into the Lily Mine tragedy after the National Union of Mineworkers was barred from entering the site for a second time.

Cosatu's Sizwe Pamla said the trade union was again barred from entering the mine yesterday where it wanted to address workers.

"An accident happened at a workplace and a trade union is being used to communicate on behalf of the mine… why workers should understand the side of the mine? We want the investigation to check whether the mine owners failed to do something."