JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Attempts to inspect the localised geological conditions underground at the troubled Lily gold mine, in Barberton, have been aborted.
A Mine Rescue Service (MRS) risk assessment this week revealed deterioration along the 600 mm rescue shaft and the original ventilation shaft, rendering it unsafe to enter, the mine’s business rescue practitioner Sturns Strategic Turnaround Solutions said in a statement on Thursday.
“Given that the rescue shaft has been totally compromised [and] there is no second [exit] outlet [as required by law], the planned inspection cannot proceed. The Department of Mineral Resources (DMR) and the Chamber of Mines have been informed of our [mine management, union and MRS] decision,” it said.
MRS was tasked with assessing the risk of going underground, using a sophisticated minivideo camera to examine the state of the two access shafts and inspect the current geological conditions to recover the trapped container.
The gold mine, in Barberton, was temporarily closed and a rescue mission launched after a shaft collapsed on February 5, leaving three employees trapped in a container underground.
The initial retrieval and rescue of the container had been aborted after three attempts to retrieve it in February.
Detailed video footage of the recently drilled rescue shaft show deterioration of the side walls in numerous places along the rescue shaft, rendering it unsafe to hoist personnel out of the mine in the event of an emergency.
The ventilation shaft, which allows access to the underground workings, shows significant deterioration as evidenced by new fractures and “bulging” of the sidewalls, compromised mostly as a result of the further deterioration of localised ground conditions.
“Underground access through the ventilation shaft would be extremely unwise and endanger the lives of the investigation team, which included expert rock engineers, DMR and union representatives, senior mine management and MRS personnel,” Sturns added.
However, the company’s original plan to develop a new decline remains in place.
“This is sited 400 m from the disturbed area and represents the best option to access the underground workings safely. Plans to implement this remain on track,” it concluded.