1000 Days of Protest and DMRE’s deafening silence on Lily Mine Continues

Tuesday, 25 January 2022 will mark 1000 days since the affected Lily Mine families set up camp outside Lily Mine in protest against mine management who have proved unwilling to have the remains of the Lily Mine three retrieved from underground. To mark the 1000 days, the families will hold a night vigil from 21h00 on Monday night crossing over to Tuesday morning at 06h00, an occasion I will not miss.

On 05 February 2016 at about 08:10am three young miners were left trapped underground after the surface ground, along with a shipping container that the miners used as a lamp room caved into old underground mine workings at Lily Mine in Louisville, east of Barberton in Mpumalanga Province.

A portion of the crown pillar on level four of the main mine failed, collapsing at the upper western portion adjacent to the mine entrance. Tragically three surface employees Pretty Nkambule (22); Yvonne Mnisi (30); and Solomon Nyirenda (37) were buried in the sinkhole when the container they were in during the collapse, disappeared.

Shortly after the collapse of the container, Makonjwaan Imperial Mining Company Proprietary Limited (MIMCO), a Vantage Goldfields Proprietary Limited company who own Lily Mine went into a business rescue process (BRP) bringing official mine operations to a complete standstill. The BRP has been the subject of litigation since 2019 due to the lack of scientifically substantiated claim that the lamp room container with the trapped miners is irretrievable. On 29 July 2021, business rescue practitioners were found to be in contempt of two court orders for failure to conclude the BRP that will allow the retrieval process to commence.

However, it would appear that the Department of Mineral Resources & Energy is no closer to ensuring that the bereaved families of the Lily Mine three find closure.

The Department continues to play games with the dignity of former miners and their families. It continues to hide behind the Business Rescue Process to avoid doing anything for the former miners, while having publicly pronounced being committed to resolving this matter. This, despite the fact that 5 February 2022 will mark 6 years since that tragic morning when the lamp room container fell underground. 

Since the beginning of ActionSA’s involvement in this matter, we committed to keeping the story of Lily Mine vivid and alive in the minds of the South African public.

Importantly, we have procured Mkhabela Huntley Attorneys’ legal services to the value of R1.3 million to date to help in the families’ fight to compel DMRE to hold mine management accountable.

We have written numerous statements, attended countless meetings together with the affected families and mine management as well as national government officials, all in the hope that we will, through all these interactions edge closer to the day when the lamp room container trapped underground will be retrieved.

Still, the DMRE’s deafening silence continues. Nonetheless and no matter how long it takes, we will not be deterred in our efforts to have mine management be held accountable for this tragedy because like all our lives, the lives of the Lily Mine families and former miners matter too.