The mining community of Barberton in Mpumalanga will now be afforded the opportunity to get their lives back on track, with Lily and Barbrook mine set to start production soon.

The Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) has granted the Siyakhula Sonke Empowerment Corporation (SSC) a loan of R190 million to acquire a 74% stake of Vantage Goldfields SA. The cash injection will see the mining community slowly make economical amends following the Lily Mine tragedy in 2016.

According to SSC group CEO Fred Arendse, the agreement between SSC and the IDC will see production resuming in the next three months at Barbrook Mine. “Once SSC Group has completed the risk assessment, and assuming a 1 June 2018 start date, we envisage the opening of Barbrook Mine within a three-month period, followed by Lily Mine approximately 12 months thereafter. The construction on the new access decline at Lily Mine will commence approximately September 2018”.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) has been calling for the resumption of Lily Mine since the 2016 tragedy and this is a ground-breaking achievement.

Lily and Barbrook mine both owned by Vantage Goldfields SA were forced to go into business rescue following the collapse of a section at Lily Mine that left Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Nkambule and Solomon Nyirenda trapped till this day.

The IDC states that one of the major objectives of their corporation is to save and facilitate the creation of job opportunities. IDC Head of Mining and Metals Strategic Business Unit (SBU) Mazwi Tunyiswa said “The closure of both Lily and Barbrook mines in Mpumalanga has negatively impacted Barberton in Mpumalanga. Close to 940 people have been without jobs since the closure of the mines, subsequently impacting the livelihood of families in the region. When we factor in supply network opportunities that have ceased to exist because of the closure of the mine, the number of families impacted is significantly higher than has been stated”.

SSC plans on re-employing locally. “The employment will however be scaled and executed as per the build-up plans for the two mines and metallurgical plant.” stated Arendse. He added “As part of our due-diligence we have identified a number of the members of the previous management team whom we would definitely consider re-employing to ensure continuity in on-site management, when re-opening both mines and the metallurgical plant. We have also engaged with a number of the previous employees all of whom have indicated a willingness to be re-employed by the company”.

The group however cannot provide a clear answer on whether the container may be retrieved or not, citing limited knowledge in the area where the crown pillar collapsed.  “The current thinking is that any plan to recover the container be revisited when the mine has been reopened. Initially the area in which the accident occurred is to be cordoned off whist a review is undertaken. Any plan to recover the container and the bodies of the three employees, will be subject to the safety of the employees and infrastructure. No mining took place at the area of the collapse and no further mining in that specific area is envisaged.” said Arendse.

Arendse further states that a proposal put forward recommends that a memorial should be erected at the site of the Lily Mine decline which will serve as a remembrance to those who lost their lives in the accident that occurred on 5 February 2016.

 

 16 April 2018 by Nobuhle Nkhoma