Editorial | Lily Mine travesty: Time for state to act

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Search and rescue teams at the collapsed Lily Mine on February 13, 2016 in Barberton, South Africa. Workers were retrenched after the entrance to the mine sank, trapping three workers underground, whose bodies have still not been retrieved. Picture: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)
Search and rescue teams at the collapsed Lily Mine on February 13, 2016 in Barberton, South Africa. Workers were retrenched after the entrance to the mine sank, trapping three workers underground, whose bodies have still not been retrieved. Picture: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)

VOICES


This week, City Press ran an exclusive online article about how the CEO of Lily Mine, Mike McChesney, is receiving a salary while 1 000 retrenched workers receive nothing.

The mine, near Barberton in Mpumalanga, was closed in 2016 when a shaft collapsed, killing three workers.

The mine is still under business rescue.

The families have been camping in tents at the mine since the closure. After the state and the mine’s owner failed to recover the bodies, the mine workers tried to recover their colleagues’ remains themselves.

“It’s a disgrace,” one mine worker told City Press at the time. “Government abandons its children as if they are stray dogs.”

Read: Lily Mine a step closer to reopening

A department of mineral resources’ inquiry put the blame for the collapse on the shoulders of the mines’ management, finding that they were negligent after defying expert warnings about mining the unstable ground.

Despite that, it appears the Australian owner of the mine, Vantage Goldfields, has “not put one cent towards anything” since the disaster.

Business rescue practitioner Rob Devereux also revealed that about R500 000 has been spent on security every month since the collapse, but did not reveal how much McChesney was being paid.

As the sale of the mine drags on, Vantage Goldfields SA has been rejecting offers, getting involved in a string of litigation with potential buyers instead.

BARBERTON, SOUTH AFRICA â?? FEBRUARY 13: Search an
Search and rescue teams at the collapsed Lily Mine on February 13, 2016 in Barberton, South Africa. Workers were retrenched after the entrance to the mine sank, trapping three workers underground, whose bodies have still not been retrieved. Picture: Gallo Images / Beeld / Felix Dlangamandla)

The former workers have accused McChesney of frustrating investment into the mine and rather looking for other investors that Vantage Goldfields would allegedly be able to control to avoid prosecution for the 2016 disaster.

The workers’ only hope of getting paid now depends on whether the new business rescue plan is adopted in a creditor’s meeting this week.

Read: The battle for Lily mine rages on

This is appalling – and reminiscent of apartheid, when poor mine workers were exploited while mining houses raked in the cash.

If you add McChesney’s undisclosed salary to the millions spent on security, one has to wonder how Vantage is getting away with it.

Government needs to step in and ensure the company takes responsibility.


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