Lily Mine collapse a failure of Govt. to tackle illegal mining

Lily Mine disaster AN INQUEST into the 2016 Lily Mine disaster,…

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Lily Mine disaster

AN INQUEST into the 2016 Lily Mine disaster, in which three people were killed after a catastrophic collapse of ground at the Mpumalanga operation, was caused by the failure of Government to address illegal mining.

The mine’s owner, Vantage Goldfields, had also failed to do a proper assessment under the Mine Health and Safety Act.

This is according to reports by EWN and News24 which cited the judgement delivered today by Judge Annemarie van der Merwe in the Mbombela Magistrates Court. The judgement brings a two-year inquest into the disaster to a close.

The police and the Mineral Resources & Energy Department had failed to combat illegal mining in the vicinity which helped caused the collapse which killed Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyirenda and Yvonne Mnisi who were in the mine’s lamp room at the time.

In this regard, the government departments failed in their constitutional duty, Judge Van der Merwe said. “It is clear from the evidence presented in court that the institutions of the SAPS and DMRE were, at the time of the Lily Mine disaster, merely giving lip service to the issue of illegal mining and that they were not effectively addressing the issue.

“It is therefore found that they had failed at the time to ensure the safety of the three lamp room attendants who had perished in an incident that happened as a result of the activities of illegal miners,” Judge Van der Merwe found.

The deaths of the employees, whose bodies remained trapped underground, were caused by the omission on the part of the employer and/or mine management to do a proper assessment. An assessment would have determined the possible hazard the crown pillar might have posed to the structure of the mine, Judge Van Der Merwe found.

She said the record of the proceedings would be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions for the possibility of instituting criminal proceedings.

Mike McChesney, CEO of Goldfields, the company that owns Lily Mine, welcomed the court findings and said he was delighted it had finally happened, News24 reported.

He also welcomed the court’s finding that the extensive illegal mining was the primary cause of the mine collapse. “The zama zamas were prevalent. It’s a scourge in the entire country and Barberton. The fact that we have closure is very good,” he added.

“We know it’s a complex matter. Lily Mine has been in the minds of South Africans for over seven years. As the employer and the owner of the mine, the magistrate illustrated the complex matter of running a gold mine in South Africa,” he told News24.

The focus now would be reopening the mine and seeing that people who were left unemployed when operations stopped could finally return to their jobs and start earning a living, McChesney was quoted as saying.

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