Over 30 gold panners are feared dead, having been trapped underground for over three days.
BY NYASHA CHINGONO
An abandoned gold mine collapsed in Bindura last Thursday, trapping an estimated 40 gold seekers underground.
Six men have so far emerged alive from Ran Mine about 70km north of the capital Harare after the disaster on Wednesday.
According to officials, nearly 30 miners remain unaccounted for.
Rescue efforts failed to start until Friday, after the generator used to drain the 100-metre-deep mine shaft jammed and another one had to be found, authorities say.
“On Thursday the rescue team tried to pump out the water, but the generator failed. They started again today (Friday).
The hardest thing is that the shaft is 100 metres deep,” Christine Munyoro of the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) said on Friday.
“We also do not know what level they are at. They may be trapped in the mud.’”
The mine collapse comes weeks after six miners died in Esigodini, southern Zimbabwe, while five others died in Chegutu when mines collapsed.
Last year 24 miners died at Battlefields, Kadoma, 125km from Harare, when the shaft they were working was flooded following heavy rains.
Rescuers took five days to clear water from the mine shafts. Only one doctor was on site during the rescue operation.
The government has been criticised for failing to regulate mining activities in the country, and allowing companies to leave disused mines unguarded.
ZMF, a grouping of small-scale miners, says illegal mining has become a dangerous practice in the country.
“We have lobbied the minister of Mines to expedite formalisation and regularisation of the artisanal mining sec
tor. Once these illegal miners have title, they will mine sustainably,” ZMF president Wellington Takavarasha said.
“You never know how many are in the shaft, they use secret tunnels which is highly dangerous.
Mining is a leading source of foreign currency for Zimbabwe, where gold accounts for 60% of exports.
The gold sector provides work for nearly 10% of the country’s population, according to the International Crisis Group.
But the risky practice of illegal mining has been on the rise in the gold-rich country due to high levels of joblessness, exacerbated by a Covid-19 lockdown that has triggered a rush to the gold mines as families struggle under tough economic conditions.
Accidents caused by explosions and flooding are common in illegal mining, which is often carried out under dangerous conditions and with little regard for safety standards.
— The Guardian