Collapse at Lily Mine

Feb 9 – Day 5


Mr Mike Begg,  say to Barberton Times “The adrenalin is pumping. We are in the red zone as these people have been down there now for more than 96 hours. We have to make sure we get them out today,”


Rescuers receive a strong signal of life.


Feb 8 – Day 4


Special electro magnetic equipment confirm that the location of container has been correct al along. Mr Mike Begg, operations director of Vantage Goldfields said “We continue to draw down material.” He said the rescue teams will continue until the missing people are found.


Mr Christo De Klerk, CEO of Mines Rescue Services SA, this morning confirmed that there is indeed signs of life coming from the depths of the mine. Rescue workers have been able to confirm that knocking sounds can be heard from below the debris in answer to sounds made by the teams working above.

Rescue teams are working with renewed hope and are currently trying to reach the container.

Feb 7 – Day 3


Members of the media were for the first time allowed onto the premises of Lily Mine for a complete briefing of the current status of the rescue operatation.

Mr Mike Begg, operations director of Vantage Goldfields, as well Mr Christo De Klerk, CEO of Mines Rescue Services South Africa gave a detailed explenation of how the disaster at Lilly Mine occured and what the mine is currently doing to ensure the three missing people are found.

De Klerk is positive that the three missing workers might still be alive. He said that people in similar and worse situations have been known to survive for lenghts of time and the rescue teams will continue searching for at least the next five days if the people are not found sooner.

Three-and-a-half-thousand tons of debris has already been removed. Although they do not know the exact location of the container yet.

10 000 tons of debris still need to be removed and it is believed that a total amount of 50 000 tons of debris caved in.

The container in which the three missing people were at the time of the collapse is known as a lamp room. On being questioned by this journalist about what the rescue packs, which were kept together with the lamps in the lamproom contains, it was revealed that oxygen packs and lamps were kept here. Seeing that the lost workers were the ones responsible for servicing these, they will know exactly what to do. They will also have enough light to see.

The collapsed area at Lily Mine as soon from above.

The collapsed area at Lily Mine as soon from above.

Heat sensors and motion detectors are being used in the rescue cooperation.  Rescue teams stop work every hour to listen for any sounds. They have heard noises but do not know where it is coming from at this stage and dont wish to speculate.


Rev dr Endabambi Sithole and Past Elmon Themba Mnisi from Matsulu have been coming to the mine everyday since Friday to conduct services, mostly inside and sometimes twice a day. Past Mnisi is also the father of Yvonne Mnisi who is still missing. This morning people came from all over to join in prayer for the missing miners.

These three very short videos show a few minutes of the sermon.


Members of the local community and family members of the missing miners started the day with more singing after spending a second night in front of Lily Mine’s gates. Mr Mike Begg is expected to brief the public on the current situation of the rescue mission shortly.

Family of the missing miners and community members started singing before sunrise on the third day of the Lily Mine rescue mission

Family of the missing miners and community members started singing before sunrise on the third day of the Lily Mine rescue mission

Feb 6 – day 2


A very emotional Mr Mike Begg addresses the public outside the mine’s gates and ensured them that they will not stop until the miners are found. The rescue workers have reached level four but went down 80m lower in an effort to reach the three trapped miners from below.

Begg also thanked everyone for their support during this very difficult time and stated that every worker at the mine is like family to him.


The mood is sombre at Lily Mine this morning after rescue workers worked through the night with no success so far. Family members of the three missing miners spent the night in front of the mine’s gates, eagerly awaiting any news.

The exact location of the miners was established this morning. It was determined they they are located in shaft 4 and rescue teams are working feverishly to get get to them.

Family members of the three missing miners spent the night outside the mine's gates.

Family members of the three missing miners spent the night outside the mine’s gates.


MEC Vusi Shongwe addressed members of the media outside the mine and confirmed that three mine workers were still missing below the surface. Shongwe said that at the time rescue personnel were working at the first layer. The miners are thought to be lodged between the third and fourth layer which could be as deep as 200m.


The national department of mineral resources has just indicated that three miners are still trapped in the lamp room. Mine rescue services are in the process of locating and assisting them.

Mineral resources minister Mr Mosebenzi Zwane has indicated that he will lend his support and leadership at the mine, following the incident this morning at 08:00. He will be joining the department’s inspectors who are on site.

It is reported that at the start of the morning shift, the main crown pillar collapsed into the underground open stopes, trapping miners at the mine owned by Vantage Goldfields Limited.

Zwane has expressed concern that the sector is experiencing serious incidents and fatalities so early in the year, and has called for employers and employees to be vigilant in matters relating to the health and safety of workers.

“It is worrying that we are seeing such serious accidents so early in the year. We urge all parties to continue prioritizing safety, so that we can realize our ultimate goal of zero harm. It is imperative that each mineworker returns home, unharmed, every day,” Zwane said.

He recently released health and safety statistics for the 2015 year, which showed fatalities at their lowest levels, and an overall improvement in the injury rate.


Shongwe is accompanied by newly appointed provincial police commissioner, Lt Gen Mondli Zuma. The MEC said that they are representing the provincial government and are at the scene to find out what exactly happened.

They were going to meet with the management of the mine and other stakeholders to “check the status quo”.

“I think yourselves at the media will know that we have never come across something like this in the province. Hence we are here to check,” he said.

Mayor of Umjindi Municipality, Mr Lazaros Mashaba, is also at the scene.


MEC for community safety, security and liaison, Mr Vusi Shongwe, is currently on his way to the scene.

In the meantime, Begg explained to the media that a service crown pillar had collapsed, an area at the top of the mine where a building is situated.

It blocked the main portal and people couldn’t get out through the main entrance. It is suspected that the five people who are currently unaccounted for, were in this building. “That building as collapsed into the hole.”

“Until our rescue team arrives, they will be doing a proper rescue underground. We have sent some of our own staff underground to try and come in from behind that area to see whether there are any survivors from that building, who may have been able to crawl out and into one or two of the old tunnels,” he said.

He described it as a freak accident, saying that they are mining way below it and has done so for the past 10 years.


Mine Rescue Workers is en route to the scene to stabilise the huge sink hole that has formed. Mr Anton Strydom, a volunteer at Off-road Rescue Services, said that, by law, they may not offer assistance before it as been assessed and stabilised.

Begg has just confirmed on the scene that five mine workers are still not accounted for.



Between 60 and 70 of the miners are currently being taken to Barberton Hospital for observation and treatment, although no serious injuries have been reported.


Begg explained that the lamp room is the “last stop” before miners are being lowered down below. Here they receive lamps and safety packs.

People have gathered at the gates leading to the mine and are praying for the trapped miners’ safety.

Mr Mike Begg and a translator.

Mr Mike Begg and a translator.

People gathered at the gate to the mine.

People gathered at the gate to the mine.


Mr Mike Begg, operations director of Lily Mine, has just spoken to reporter Anchen Coetzee at the scene, saying that they have contact with all miners trapped underground.

He said that the so-called lamp room has collapsed. “Those are the only people I’m afraid for,” he said. They are currently checking a list to see who of the miners had been scheduled to work in this lamp room.


People are being brought to the surface through ventilation shafts. About 15 miners have been brought to safety.

It is reportedly currently very unstable underground and rescue workers are waiting for officials of the mine’s rescue team to assess whether they can go in to assist trapped workers.

No deaths have been reported at this stage.


Paramedics and rescue workers are currently meeting to decide on a plan of action on how to assist those who have been injured and are still trapped.

At this stage, it seems as if it was a rock fall at the entrance to the mine and not a structural collapse.


LOW’S CREEK – Rescue workers and paramedics of various ambulance services are on their way to Lily Mine after a reported collapse. It is unclear at this stage whether it was a shaft that caved in, or a rock fall.

There are reportedly hundreds of injured mine workers on the scene with hundreds more apparently still trapped.

The gold mine is situated between Barberton and Kaapmuiden.

Updates will be posted as they become available.

More about Lily Mine and Vantage Goldfields SA here.

Anchen Coetzee and Nicolene Smalman

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