Barberton - The families of the three workers trapped inside Lily Mine in Louisville, outside Barberton, are in pain, but the country is with them, President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday.
"The families are in deep pain and feel helpless in such an overwhelming situation," Zuma said in a speech prepared for the 2nd annual Ubuntu Awards Gala dinner in Cape Town.
"We assure the families that the whole nation is with them and shares the pain."
Zuma said he had appointed three ministers to work alongside the Mpumalanga province in providing the affected families with assistance and support.
Yvonne Mnisi, Pretty Mazibuko and Solomon Nyerende were working in a shipping container office when the entrance of the mine collapsed, leading to the container falling into the ground last week Friday.
Rescue efforts were temporarily suspended on Saturday when a second collapse occurred at the site. This was avoid risking the safety of rescuers who were working on retrieving the trio.
"It is a very difficult and painful period and we trust that the rescue mission will yield results sooner," Zuma said.
Earlier, Mpumalanga Premier David Mabuza had reassured families that Pretty Nkambule, Solomon Nyarende and Yvonne Mnisi would be brought back to the surface, dead or alive. He had been at the mine to receive an update on the state of affairs.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) head of health and safety Gabriel Nkosi told News24 laser technology was being used to monitor the ground's stability.
He said a decision had been made to call in specialists and professors who had played a role in designing the mine, to provide assistance on a way forward.
He said the decision to halt rescue operations was a hard pill to swallow for the families of the missing three.
"We have addressed the families about the current situation. It is very hard swallow for the families, its very difficult for them to understand, but they have seen from the second collapse that it is risky [for the rescue team]."
Based on his interactions with the families, Nkosi said although they seemed to be getting weak, there were a few strong individuals who helped them keep their faith alive.
Although there was currently no progress at the mine, Nkosi said some family members had opted not to return home until they received new information.
Amcu made a call to government to declare the incident a national crisis.