Bodies of three buried employees to be retrieved as Lily Mine is set to be reopened

Lily Gold Mine in Barberton. PHOTO: Supplied

Lily Gold Mine in Barberton. PHOTO: Supplied

Published May 15, 2024


VANTAGE Goldfields could resume operations by the beginning of August at Lily and Barbrook gold mines in Barberton, Mpumalanga, where the bodies of three workers remain buried underground after eight years.

This comes as the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has approved a Section 11 determination for the Australian company to resume operations at the mine when a business rescue process comes to an end.

Section 11 of the Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act (MPRDA) of 2002 is a cornerstone of South Africa's mining regulatory framework and provides a structured and transparent process for transferring mining rights.

The DMRE yesterday said Vantage Goldfields was expected to sink a decline/shaft to gain access to the underground workings to retrieve the container and the three missing employees at Lily mine.

Families of Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule, and Solomon Nyirenda have been waiting for closure since the three mineworkers became trapped underground on February 5, 2016, when the container they were working in fell into a sinkhole created by a collapsed crown pillar before being covered by huge rocks.

The collapse of the Lily and Barbrook gold mine resulted to the company being put under a business rescue process, leading to the closure and retrenchment of about 1 000 workers.

Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe yesterday held a stakeholder engagement session which sought to inculcate co-operation between all stakeholders involved in the efforts to reopen the Lily and Barbrook gold mines.

The session was attended by stakeholders representing Vantage Goldfields; Lomshiyo Traditional Council; the Business Rescue Practitioner; organised labour; and government leaders.

“We all agree that at the centre of our work is to re-open Lily mine, retrieve the bodies and bring closure to the affected families and fellow mineworkers,” Mantashe said.

“Despite the approval of Section 11 which paves the way for the reopening of the mines and retrieval of the containers, this is not the time for celebrations, but the time for us to put more efforts and ensure that the mines reopen in the shortest possible time.”

According to the DMRE, the business rescue process is expected to be completed by the end of July 2024, after which the operations may resume.

The DMRE said all stakeholders, including representatives of the Lomshiyo Traditional Council; the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu); and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) expressed full support and confidence in the efforts to reopen the mines as these will create the much need jobs in the Liouville community.