Freedom Mupanedemo Midlands Bureau
Two illegal miners died and two others were injured, while more than 20 others are feared trapped underground after a tunnel at Globe and Phoenix Mine in Kwekwe collapsed yesterday.
By the time of going to print, the actual number of trapped illegal miners was not clear, but indications were that about 25 miners were underground at the time of disaster.
Chief Government Mining Engineer Michael Munodawafa, confirmed the accident, yesterday.
He said rescue efforts were ongoing.
Eng Munodafawa said mining inspectors were still trying to gain entry into the collapsed shaft through other channels.
“We can confirm that two artisanal miners died while two others were injured and taken to hospital, after a mineshaft they were working under collapsed,” he said.
“We are still to get more causalities but there is a possibility that those who are said to be missing could have found their way out through other entrances and exit points.
“We are not ruling out the fact that there could be scores others missing, but they could as well have managed to escape; we will give a final update once the operation is over.”
When The Herald arrived at the mine around midday yesterday, some artisanal miners were trooping out.
Various groups operating at the mine were trying to account for each other with unconfirmed reports saying at least 20 were still unaccounted for.
It also emerged yesterday that Globe and Phoenix Mine ceased operations in 2007 following an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which showed the shafts, most of which were right underneath Kwekwe central business district (CBD) were posing danger to the city.
Kwekwe District Administrator Mr Fortune Mupungu, who is also the District Civil Protection Unit chairperson, said scores of artisanal miners were operating at the mine illegally.
Some of the artisanal miners were evicted from Gaika Mine.
“We received the sad news that several miners were trapped underground following the collapse of a shaft this morning (yesterday).
“A team which went underground to assess the situation only found two bodies,” said Mr Mupungu.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) president Ms Henrietta Rushwaya could not be reached for comment last night as her mobile phone was unreachable.
The Herald news crew spent the better part of yesterday at the scene.
Police only arrived around 3pm while officials from the Mines and Mining Development Ministry arrived at 4:30pm.
The police were assisted by some artisanal miners to retrieve the bodies from the shaft, before loading them into their van and left.
It was a tense atmosphere with some self-styled security personnel at the scene threatening to beat anyone who dared to take photos.
Some of the artisanal miners who had gathered outside the mine were ordered to leave.
“We don’t want any pictures taken from here. Those who came out of the shafts, please go home. We have stopped operations here. We only want to see relatives of those missing, everyone let’s go,” said one of the security people.
Eyewitnesses said the two miners, whose bodies were retrieved, were crushed by a boulder which fell off the collapsing shaft.
“The two were at the entrance of the shaft so there is a boulder which fell on them as the shaft collapsed, they were cut into halves but we don’t know what became of their colleagues who were inside the shaft, about 20 of them,” said an artisanal miner, Mr Mthokozisi Moyo.
Mr Moyo said the shaft where their colleagues were trapped was over 8km long.
“From outside up to the entrance of the shaft which collapsed, we need to walk for about 4km while underground, but the shaft itself is over 8km,” he said.