Komatipoort - There is hope that three miners trapped in a container that fell into the sink hole at Lily Mine in Mpumalanga, are still alive, rescuers said on Monday.
The rescue team heard knocking on Monday morning, Mine Rescue Services chief executive Christo de Klerk said.
"They heard knocking and decided to switch all the machines off to have absolute silence in the mine and knocked against some piping. A little while later there was a response from deep inside the mine," he said, a News24 Correspondent reported.
Three employees, Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mabuza and Solomon Nyarenda, were in a lamp room that was housed in a container, near the entrance to the mine, when the central pillar of ore, called a crown pillar, collapsed on Friday. The container was swallowed up in a sink hole as big as a rugby field.
Seventy-six miners were rescued.
De Klerk told reporters on Sunday that the rescue packs in the lamp room each had 30 minutes of oxygen. The only water and food available to the three was what they had taken with them.
The rescue effort was being made from inside the mine, on level 5. Debris was being loaded onto trucks and driven out.
“We are positive that we are getting close the container with the trapped workers and that it is only a matter of hours before we can get to them," he said.
Mike Begg, operations director at Vantage Goldfields, which owns the mine, said the families were told at 03:00 that there were signs of life from inside the container.
“We were all in tears. We are so thankful for this development."
Begg said they were hopeful the container would be located soon.
The lamp room was the last stop before miners entered the mine.
"It’s the station where they charge their headlamps and would collect rescue packs. At the moment we do not have any communication with them," said Begg.
Vantage Goldfields chief executive Mike McChesney said they hoped for the best.
"The thoughts and prayers of everyone at Lily and Vantage Goldfields are with the three missing workers, their families and the rescue teams. Our focus as management right now is on finding our colleagues.”
Photos taken by air and rescue units show how some containers that were used as offices nearly fell into the hole. Fifteen ambulances were used during the operation.
A multi-denominational church service was held outside the mine's gate on Sunday morning to pray for the safe return of the workers.