Members of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy conducted an oversight visit at the Lily Mine, outside Barberton in Mpumalanga on Friday.
Members of the committee suggested that the mine should be expropriated and declared a disaster site. This, after mine management, failed to retrieve the bodies of the three mineworkers, who were trapped underground, when the mine collapsed four years ago.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources & Energy has arrived.
This is a big victory for the people of #LilyMine as they fight for justice.
It’s taken four years, but we are moving forward! pic.twitter.com/kHbSHLJGbO
— ActionSA (@Action4SA) October 9, 2020
Committee members quizzed owners of the mine, Vantage Goldfields.
“There are hearsay all around that you deliberately don’t want that container to come out because you are afraid of being prosecuted and that’s why you are delaying the issue, can you say something about that?”, asked one committee member.
“I want it to come out that is why I am still here. You know I handed this company to the BRP to run but I’m here to see that there is closure for the families and that is access to the mine and we can start the jobs again. I want the container to come out. I’m also saying to you that regarding the prosecution that is something for the NPA, I’m not going to comment on that. They must deal with it personally I am not concerned about it because I really don’t believe that there are any issues there,” responded a mine representative.
Vantage Goldfields CEO, Mike McChesney, dismissing allegations that they are deliberately delaying the process of retrieving the container. He says the mission is delayed due to lack of funds.
McChensy says they need about R500 million to continue with the recovery plan.
However, Fred Arendse, the CEO of SSC Group, a company that wants to buy the Lily Mine, accuses Vantage Goldfields of delaying the deal.
“Yes, I heard what the CEO of Vantage was saying. I respectfully disagree with him. In respect of what he explained. Two, we remain committed to the retrieval of the container and also to open the mine. What we are battling with is the delays caused by Vantage and to an extent to the business practitioners. We just want to finalise our diligence process which is extremely promising at the moment. We would like all these delays to be taken out of our way so that we can do two things, one open the mine and two retrieve the container so we can get the closer for our families.”
Portfolio Committee on Mineral Resources and Energy chairperson, Sahlulele Luzipo, says government should expropriate the mine with little compensation.
“Government must intervene, first must expropriate the mine with reasonable compensation. The second thing that we are suggesting is that through Parliament we must consider whether there is no section in the law where we can talk about the state declaring the mine as a disaster site so that we can be able to unlock the resources in the public interest and then be able to recover that from the mine. The third part is that the department must apply section 57, section 57 is about taking back the mining right.”
Among those who attended the oversight visit, is the President of the newly formed Action SA, Herman Mashaba. Mashaba is assisting the families and former workers with legal representation.
“We are ready to go to court to force the DMR to do exactly what the committee is suggesting. So will talk to the legal team based on what transpired today. You can imagine this matter be financed by me personally today in excess of R600 000 spent on legal cost from January and this is a very expensive exercise but it’s very huge but necessary.”
Our legal team has arrived at #LilyMine.
We want to make sure that throughout this process, the interests of the people of #LilyMine are put first.
They deserve justice after waiting more than four years. pic.twitter.com/K5Ea3axlUa
— Herman Mashaba (@HermanMashaba) October 9, 2020
Former fellow workers and the families of the three trapped workers are optimistic that the bodies will be retrieved.
“You see as today we mark 529 days camping here, that’s one of our reasons for such an intervention. We made a proposal years back that why don’t you bring all the stakeholders together at a round table. Because what is happening now is that McChesney says his own version, DMR has its own version and we are presenting our own version. So it’s better if we come together and then discuss it, if one is wrong, all of us question that particular stakeholder,” says Herry Mazibuko, speaking on behalf of the families.
Mazibuko also says they’ll continue to camp outside the mine premises until the bodies of their former colleagues are retrieved.
Portfolio Committee visits Lily Mine: