MUTASA –Two illegal miners died and more than 30 others are feared to be buried underground after bulldozers belonging to a Chinese company began preparations to mine gold in the area last Sunday.
The unfortunate incident happened at the gold-rich Premier Estate in Mutasa district.
There are growing fears that more than 30 artisanal miners are still buried underground.
Manicaland police spokesperson Tavhiringwa Kakohwa has confirmed the two deaths, adding investigations were underway to establish the cause of the incident..
The Chinese company – Zhong Jian Investments – was recently granted exclusive rights to mine gold in the area by the Government of Zimbabwe.
It is the same company that has begun production at the M-block
claim in Hwange, which sits on the bulk of Zimbabwe’s estimated 15
billion metric tonnes of coal as well as at a gold claim along the Mazoe River in Shamva.
The claim is about 80 kilometres east of Harare.
Investigations by Zim Morning Post revealed that mining inspectors
were still trying to gain entry into the buried shafts through other channels.
“There have been two confirmed deaths, but there are now fears
that more artisanal miners could be buried under those shafts.
“We suspect we will get more causalities, but there is a possibility that those said to be missing could have found their way out through other entrances and exit points,” said a source who could not be named for protocol reasons.
Some artisanal miners interviewed said they had been missing their
colleagues since Sunday.
“We have our colleagues who we have not seen since Sunday.
“We are now worried because it might mean they are buried under those shafts,” said one artisanal miner.
The legislator of the area, Regai Tsunga (MDC Alliance), said the
accident was a disaster that could have been avoided.
“This is a very disturbing occurrence. Elementary occupational safety and health protocols were clearly not observed in the whole operation. I pray that all those bodies that have remained trapped underground will be retrieved without delay for some decent burial. May the souls of the departed rest in peace,” Tsunga said.
Questions have been asked why the Chinese company failed to give ample warning or find police assistance to flush out the artisanal miners before letting the bulldozers on the mining fields.