JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Vantage Goldfields on Thursday announced at a media briefing that it would use a new and safer entrance route to approach the container, where three miners have been trapped underground for over a month at its Mpumalanga-based Lily mine.
The container fell prey to a sinkhole collapse that took place on February 5.
Efforts to retrieve the container and its occupants would take six months to complete, said Vantage Goldfields CEO Michael McChesney, further pointing out that the new underground retrieval operations would get under way next month.
"In the next few days we will start implementing our [recovery] plan and we will also start looking at the future of the mine, because people are concerned about their jobs," said McChesney.
He added that the new entrance would be located far from the sinkhole on geologically stable ground, which was the safest and quickest option that could be implemented.
Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane requested the patience of Lily mineworkers as "the mission was taking longer than expected".
"Our primary task with this operation is to ensure that nobody gets hurt," he said, adding that the Department of Mineral Resources' (DMR’s) main objective was to bring the container to the surface.
McChesney commented that, over the last few weeks, the DMR and Vantage Goldfields had recognised that the incident was much bigger and more complex than originally anticipated.
"It happened without warning. The mood is sad and sombre but I think people have come to terms with the reality of the situation," said McChesney.
Zwane highlighted that safety [in the industry] remained a priority and that an investigation would be launched into the cause of the collapse. He added that, moving forward, remedial action would be taken.
McChesney stated that there was still no indication of what exactly caused the collapse.