Pretoria – A mines rescue drill rig has been secured to bore an escape outlet for the three miners that are trapped underground at Lily mine, in Barberton, Mpumalanga.
“This machine is capable of drilling a 600mm diameter hole, which will reach five level. The drill is expected to arrive on Thursday,” the Department of Mineral Resources said.
Earlier this month, Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mazibuko and Solomon Nyerende were working in a shipping container office when the entrance of the mine collapsed, leading to the container falling into the ground.
On Saturday, a second collapse occurred at the mine, resulting in a decision to suspend rescue operations in the interests of safety.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane directed that the efforts be reinforced. A team of rock engineering experts went underground to assess the conditions at the time.
Maptek, an Australian company, has been providing a continuous laser scanning system capable of monitoring ground movements for safety purposes.
“After the collapse, there is currently one operational access and exit point, which is the ventilation shaft. The stability of this shaft is of paramount importance for continued safe access, and therefore every care must be taken to protect its integrity,” the department said.
A geotechnical report has since been produced, with a key recommendation being to re-establish a second outlet for safety reasons.
In terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act as administered by the Department of Mineral Resources, each mine is required to have at least two safety outlets.
Based on the underground assessment, the experts concurred with the decision to temporarily suspend operations.
“The matter is being treated with the necessary urgency, given the safety concerns and the geological considerations.
“The experts have estimated that it will take approximately two to three weeks before rescue operations can recommence, as the drilling will be done through hard rock. All alternative approaches will continue to be explored concurrently,” the department said.
Minister Zwane will convene Chief Executive Officers and leaders of organised labour in due course to discuss health and safety concerns, given the mining incidents and fatalities that have occurred in the mining industry since the beginning of the year.