New drilling be­gins af­ter set­back at Lily Mine

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Drilling a new hole to res­cue three mine work­ers trapped un­der­ground in a col­lapsed mine in Mpumalanga be­gan yes­ter­day af­ter­noon.

The spe­cial­ist ma­chin­ery ar­rived at Van­tage Gold­fields’ Lily Mine in Louisville out­side Bar­ber­ton on Fri­day, where Pretty Nkam­bule, Yvonne Mnisi and Solomon Ny­erende have been trapped un­der rocks, soil and de­bris 60m un­der­ground since a sink­hole opened up on Fe­bru­ary 5, bury­ing a lamp of­fice they were work­ing in.

The ini­tial res­cue mis­sion was aban­doned on Fe­bru­ary 13, when the en­trance to the mine was blocked by a se­cond col­lapse. Since then, walls of the sink­hole have been scal­ing off – prompt­ing the mine to call in geotech­ni­cal ex­perts to de­ter­mine if it was still safe to go ahead with the re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion. The ex­perts ad­vised that it was not safe to con­tinue.

Lily Mine spokesper­son Coetzee Zi­ets­man said it would take two to three weeks to fin­ish drilling the new hole, af­ter which the re­cov­ery op­er­a­tion would re­sume.

“The geotech­ni­cal ex­perts in con­sul­ta­tion with all the stake­hold­ers felt that it would be bet­ter to drill a new hole to reach the trapped work­ers. The drilling started this af­ter­noon [yes­ter­day],” Zi­ets­man said.

The three mine work­ers will have been trapped un­der­ground for more than 30 days when the op­er­a­tion to re­cover them re­sumes in three weeks.

The trio’s 76 col­leagues avoided be­ing trapped by a whisker when the col­lapse hap­pened shortly af­ter they had en­tered the shaft.

There is no hope that the three work­ers are still alive, and one fam­ily is be­gin­ning to ac­cept the re­al­ity.

Nkam­bule’s brother, Mangaliso, said: “I com­pare this to sav­ing a per­son who is drown­ing. You rush to res­cue that per­son be­cause if you wait a while longer, you won’t be able to. I’m not sat­is­fied and there is no hope left.”

Some of the fam­ily mem­bers have been call­ing for tra­di­tional heal­ers to per­form a rit­ual to res­cue the mine work­ers, and mine man­age­ment in­di­cated that it would have no prob­lem with that.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has ap­pointed three min­is­ters – Mosebenzi Zwane (min­eral re­sources), Batha­bile Dlamini (so­cial de­vel­op­ment) and Su­san Sha­bangu (min­is­ter of women in the pres­i­dency) – to deal with the disas­ter.

Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment have vis­ited the mine and are ex­pected to com­pile a re­port shortly. Three com­mit­tee chairs – Sahlulele Luzuko, Lumka Yen­geni and Ole­file Se­fako – vowed that they would push for the three mine work­ers to be re­cov­ered, ir­re­spec­tive of whether the op­er­a­tion was risky or not.

Van­tage Gold­fields has de­cided to pay out R4.4 mil­lion in com­pen­sa­tion to the sur­viv­ing mine work­ers and to the fam­i­lies of the three trapped peo­ple. The sur­vivors will get R50 000 each, while the fam­i­lies of the trapped work­ers were promised R200 000 each.

Fam­i­lies of the three mine work­ers are still pray­ing in a tent that has been pitched on the mine.

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