Summary:  The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) is elated following the handing down of judgment in the long-awaited inquest into the Lily Mine Disaster.  The Union applauds the court for finding the employer as well as the government liable for what happened on that fateful day.  AMCU again sends condolences to the families of the three trapped mineworkers, now declared deceased by the Magistrate.

Earlier today, Magistrate Annemarie van der Merwe of the Mbombela Magistrates Court in Nelspruit, Mpumalanga handed down judgment following the inquest into the Lily Mine Disaster.  The Lily Mine Disaster, which happened on 5 February 2016, left three (3) mineworkers trapped underground following a collapse the crown pillar at the mine.  The inquest which started in 2021, saw two expert witnesses testifying before the court.

Even though Magistrate van der Merwe found that the design of the collapsed pillar to be in order, she found that the ultimate cause of the incident was the mining of the pillar by illegal miners.  Notwithstanding the cause of the incident, she also held the mine itself liable for failing to perform a proper risk assessment in terms of the Mine Health and Safety Act (MHSA).  Two government departments, namely the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) were, in turn, held liable for failing to curb the mining by zama-zamas.

“As AMCU, we are not just elated, but also vindicated and justified for what we’ve been saying ever since the Lily Mine Disaster”, said AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa.  “We have always said that both the mine and the government should be held liable for this disaster, and we have consistently called for the strengthening of the DMRE inspectorate as well as stricter penalties on mines for fatal incidents”, he added.

Magistrate van der Merwe was particularly critical of the DMRE for the poor quality of reports, and for the fact that it failed to run the fatal inquiry in terms of the MHSA and the inquest concurrently.  She referred the liable parties, namely the mine owner and managers, to the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) for prosecution.  

“We applaud our legal team at Richard Spoor Incorporated, for their excellent and passionate dedication and commitment during this inquest”, lauded Mathunjwa.  “We have come to know this firm to be a steadfast partner in our quest for truth and justice.  We believe that justice will be served, and we will continue to support all involved as far as possible”, Mathunjwa said.  

Magistrate Annemarie van der Merwe also finally declared that the three (3) trapped mineworkers, Solomon Nyirenda, Pretty Nkambule and Yvonne Mnisi, would all have perished during the incident and that they would be deceased.

“Our condolences once again go out to the families of these three comrades”, Mathunjwa said.  “Even though this disaster has caused a lot of pain and suffering for many, we are encouraged by the fact that the perpetrators will be prosecuted, and that justice will be served at last”, Mathunjwa concluded.

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For interviews:  Joseph Mathunjwa (AMCU President)