Mineral Resources Minister Mosebenzi Zwane said that after visiting the Lily gold mine, near Barberon last week Friday, the Department of Minerals (DMR) and Vantage Goldfields’ management agreed to suspend the mine with immediate effect as the search for three unaccounted for employees continues.

Minister Zwane expressed his concern that the sector is experiencing serious incidents and fatalities so early in the year, and has called for employers and employees to be vigilant in matters relating to the health and safety of workers.

“It is worrying that we are seeing such serious accidents so early in the year. We urge all parties to continue prioritizing safety, so that we can realize our ultimate goal of zero harm. It is imperative that each mineworker returns home, unharmed, every day,” Minister Zwane said.

Vantage Goldfields confirmed in a statement that all 87 workers who had been trapped underground at the company’s Lily mine have been safely evacuated and brought to the surface following what appears to be a collapse of the crown pillar.

Search and rescue teams are, however, continuing with their efforts to find three employees who were working on surface, in the lamp room container, at the time of the incident and who are not yet accounted for.

The accident comes in the wake of the Minister's recently released health and safety statistics for the 2015 year, which showed fatalities at their lowest levels, and an overall improvement in the injury rate.

Vantage Goldfields said that it would provide an accurate update on the wellbeing of all employees as soon as this information becomes available, but there are no reports of any injuries to the evacuated miners.

The Department of Mineral Resources and AMCU are being kept fully informed of the incident, the company said, adding that its focus as management is on finding its colleagues.

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