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Lily mine accident: Law must take its course, says Zwane

Feb 05 2017 12:30
Liesl Peyper

Cape Town – An inquiry into the Lily Mine accident in Barberton has been concluded and the law must now take its course, said Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane on the eve of the 2017 Mining Indaba.

The Mining Indaba, currently the world’s largest mining investment conference and Africa’s largest mining event, is taking place in Cape Town from February 6 to 9. 

On February 5 exactly a year ago, three employees at the Lily Mine near Barberton in Mpumalanga lost their lives. 

Of the initial group of 79 workers trapped underground a year ago, the company was able to rescue 76. However, Pretty Mabuza, Solomon Nyarenda and Yvonne Mnisi, who had been trapped in a container which had fallen into a giant sinkhole subsequently died. 

Zwane came under heavy criticism for his handling of the matter. Cosatu claimed the Minister had made promises that he failed to keep. 

According to Cosatu, a number of workers Some were promised alternative employment and others were promised payments, “but nothing has happened since those promises were made,” Cosatu said.

Zwane, however, was adamant that the holding company, Vantage Goldfields, and its business rescue practitioner remain liable for the payment of R200 000 each to the families of the victims, and R50 000 each to the rescued employees.

READ: Unions unhappy as Lily Mine goes into business rescue

“The primary objective remains that of finding the container, in order for the families of the three employees to get closure on this matter,” Zwane said

“We understand fully the frustrations expressed by the families and the public at large on the amount of time it has taken to conclude this process, but we want to assure South Africa that no effort is being spared to ensure that this matter is resolved.

The Department has concluded the investigation into the accident and it has now been converted into an inquiry in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act, which will commence in the next few days, Zwane said. 

“Should it be found that there was any recklessness or negligence, which resulted in this accident, the law will take its course.” 

READ: Mining safety first, profits second - Zwane

He added that his Department is also in talks with the National Prosecuting Authority to strengthen the ability to prosecute those who are negligent in their responsibilities.

“The health and safety of employees is critical for the long-term sustainability of the mining industry. We continue to urge all stakeholders in the mining industry to make this a priority,” Zwane said. 

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