Chegutu mine disaster: Govt ropes in experts
Conrad Mupesa–Mashonaland West Bureau
Experts from large-scale mines in the Chegutu district have been brought in by Government to help in rescuing trapped artisanal miners at Bay Horse Mine or at least retrieve their bodies if they are dead.
At least 10 people are still trapped underground after a mine shaft collapsed last Friday while 34 people were working there.
Out of the 21 that escaped death, eight were rescued between Friday night and Saturday morning with four currently in hospital with varying degrees of injury.
By Saturday evening, four bodies had been retrieved and taken to Chegutu District Hospital mortuary.
Vice President Dr Constantino Chiwenga said families of all the victims, including those that perished in the Murowa Diamonds plane crash, will get assistance for the funerals.
Addressing relatives of the trapped people, artisanal miners and Bay Horse community members, Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Marian Chombo said the Government had roped in big mines, including platinum giant, Zimplats and Chinese ferrochrome producer Afrochine (Pvt) Ltd, to help with rescue efforts.
“I want to thank the local community and fellow artisanal miners who reacted swiftly to rescue eight people alive and retrieve four bodies,” she said.
“We are now seeking assistance from big mines like Zimplats, Golden Valley and Pickstone Mine among other mines to help in the search for miners still trapped underground. The mines have expertise and other machines and equipment that could be helpful.”
Afrochine had by yesterday morning sent a team of electricians and mining technicians together with equipment that included diesel water pumps to deal with rising water levels in the shaft and to crack a huge bolder.
Afrochine human resources manager Mr Qurtis Wang, who is leading the rescue team, said they were aiming to save lives and help retrieve bodies to give dignified burials to the deceased.
Other players were expected on the scene yesterday afternoon.
Minister Chombo informed the gathering, including the grieving family members, that the state was going to assist in the burial of the miners.
Her office, she said, was working with Government departments, mines and other individuals to source food for those camped at the site, including family members.
She challenged artisanal miners to conduct their operations in a safe manner.
“We have a lot of small-scale miners here. Let us be careful in our operations to avoid putting your lives in danger. As the Government, we are saddened by the loss of life, even one death is too many for us as Zimbabweans,” she said.
Her call came following various mining accidents in the district that have claimed the lives of many miners.
Last week, two people died at a small-scale mine located 15 kilometres along Chegutu-Chinhoyi Road.
In 2020, five miners including a Form Four student, a father and his son, lost their lives when a shaft collapsed at Task Mine in the same district.
Chief Government mining engineer, Mr Michael Munodawafa said most accidents were a result of negligence, including the extraction of ore from shaft pillars.
The mine’s blaster, Mr Hussein Phiri, said their efforts were focused on retrieving the body of one miner who was crushed on the passage, blocking access to where the other five trapped bodies are located.
“We want to first remove the body of one of the miners that was badly crushed by a huge rock. We have to give our last respects to our comrade. The search and retrieving team can’t step on the body of this person to retrieve the other bodies,” he said.
The Civil Protection Department has been activated with a command centre having been set up at the mine, northeast of Chegutu town.
There are also efforts to locate four other miners that are still to be accounted for.
One of the survivors who lost his younger brother, Mr Trevor Murombedzi, narrated the tragic incident that led to the death of his brother, Munashe, aged 23.
“We noticed signs that the roof of the mine was about to give in and we tried to escape unfortunately, the large piece of the ground above us carved in,” he said. “I escaped unhurt together with the other three that I was working with from a group of nine. The other five including my brother were trapped underground.”
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyati yesterday afternoon said he would issue a statement today regarding the Bay Horse Mine accident.