Walter Nyamukondiwa and Fortunate Gora
Government has ordered the closure of several access points into Eldorado Mine in Chinhoyi where at least 12 people are believed to have been trapped following the collapse of Level 11 mineshaft.
The move is aimed at deterring artisanal miners who have allegedly continued mining despite the tragic mine collapse.
Only one body has been brought to the surface so far from the collapsed shaft, which is about 400 metres underground.
Addressing a meeting at Eldorado Mine on Saturday Mines and Mining Development permanent secretary Munesuishe Munodawafa implored Eldorado Mine officials through their lawyer Mr Chenjerai Daitai to close the access points with immediate effect.
“You need to improve on your security as a matter of urgency,” he said. “This is your place and it is your responsibility to ensure that it is secure at all times.
“You should make sure that the main gate is secured and no one gets into that mine until you resume operations so that we will not have incidents (mine collapse) like these again.’’
Mr Daitai said they are considering measures recommended by an assessment team that went underground, which may endanger the lives of those underground.
Mr Munodawafa also urged traditional leaders in the area to advise people in their communities to desist from getting in the mine as a precautionary measure.
Such people, he said risked falling foul of the law.
“So at this point we are giving those inside two to three days grace period to vacate or they will face prosecution,’’ he warned.
The mine’s lawyer Mr Daitai promised to close the access points with immediate effect after getting assurances from traditional leaders that no local people were underground.
Meanwhile, traditional leaders in Zvimba North constituency including sub-chiefs Katizagombo and Shayarishongwa led relatives and villagers in conducting rituals in a bid to “appease” local spirits following failed bids to retrieve the trapped bodies.
Sub-chief Katizagumbo said most people who died were not from Zvimba North, but were from as far as Midlands and some parts of Matabeleland.
“We had these people who came from outside our area and fought our children in there (mineshaft). People should not behave that way on other people’s land. The ancestors are not happy,” he said.
“So, we have joined the bereaved families and conducted rituals to appease the owners of the land so that retrieval efforts are successful and that the people here can take their deceased relatives to their respective areas of origin.”
Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Ms Henrietta Rushwaya condemned illegal and unsafe mining practices saying they resulted in unnecessary loss of lives.
She said artisanal miners were not mining experts and should be guided by Ministry of Mines and Mining Development officials during the recovery operations.
“We do not want people who go into shafts on the pretext of looking for dead bodies when in actual fact they will be mining illegally.
“Whoever is going into the shaft is doing it at their own peril, artisanal miners are not mining experts and should wait for ministry officials’ guidance,’’ she said.
Delays in retrieving the bodies has been met with mixed feelings with some people saying the matter was not being treated with the urgency it deserved.
Zvimba North legislator-elect Cde Marian Chombo said that bereaved families that have gathered at the mine since last Monday have been asked to return to their respective homes until further notice.