Inquest into Lily Mine collapse postponed

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Former Lily Mine’s Geologist Mike Berg has again confirmed that the mine collapsed due to crown pillar failure after rock fracture had caused the rapture of the surface. Berg testified during the inquest into the collapse of the Lily Mine at the Nelspruit Regional Court in Mpumalanga.   

It has been a week-long of testimonies by witnesses and cross examinations by legal representatives and the state on the Lily Mine 2016 disaster. The main objective of the inquest is to provide clarity regarding the cause of the mine collapse.  

Seventy four mine workers were rescued.  

Yvonne Mnisi, Solomon Nyarende and Pretty Nkambule who were inside a container used as a lamb room were trapped underground. Their remains are yet to be retrieved.  

The inquest is also aimed at giving answers to the families of the three miners. 

Berg was part of the senior personnel who took a stand in court this week. He explained to the court about all decisions regarding operational matters that were taken in his presence, collectively as a team. He disputed the report compiled by rock engineer Rudie Kirsten on the redesign of the mine crown pillars.   

Berg touched emotions of the families when describing how the incident happened and how the rescue mission was carried out. 

He said they discovered a tyre at Level 4 shaft, which was next to the container on the surface. But the container was not found. He testified that the container could be at Level 5 shaft, which is not easy to access due to huge rocks. 

The lawyer representing the families, Richard Spoor wanted to know why the mine management had not adhered to the report by the rock engineer.  

Berg said the report was not commissioned or signed off. The damning report also pointed out that the mine was mining out some of the pillars, which according to the report, placed the mine at risk of a collapse. 

Meanwhile, former underground manager Bongani Ranthu who also testified dismissed the evidence of Mr X who testified that illegal miners were flooding the mine and stealing gold.  

Ranthu says they had tight security safeguarding the mine. He says he was shocked that the head of security was fingered as a kingpin in bringing in illegal miners to steal gold.  

The matter has been postponed to the 22nd of November.