Minister orders stop to artisanal mining amid high accident risks posed by rains




Soda Zhemu
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HARARE – Mines Minister Soda Zhemu has called on artisanal miners to “completely stop” mining activities during the current rain season which poses a high risk of mine disasters.

In a statement, Zhemu also advised established mining companies to employ adequate safety measures in the wake of increased risks associated with the wet period.

“The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development would like to advise all miners, large scale, medium scale, and small scale in particular artisanal miners across the country that the onset of the rainy season brings with it grave dangers and risks that are a threat to lives and potential loss of equipment and damage to mines.

“The ministry would like to implore all the miners to be cognizant of these dangers and risks and accordingly take adequate precautions and practise responsible mining to preserve lives as a topmost priority.

“It should be noted that we are lately experiencing torrent rainfall which increase the dangers and risks,” he said.

The rainy season has often brought heightened risks in the form of flooding, drowning, loose ground, leading to fall and ground subsidence as well as slimes, dam breaches with a lot of lives lost during the period.

In recent years, a lot of mine accidents have involved artisanal miners who are less skilled and equipped to venture into the lucrative but dangerous job.

Recently, 15 artisanal miners were lucky to escape death after spending an agonising three days trapped underground following a shaft collapse at Redwing Mine in Manicaland.

Last week, two artisanal miners died as a result of a mine shaft collapse at Master Cecil Mine in Umguza district, Matabeleland North.

In September last year, 10 miners died in another mine shaft collapse incident at Bay Horse gold mine in Chegutu.

Perhaps the biggest mine disaster in the recent past was the February 2019 one in which 23 illegal miners died when interlinked shafts and tunnels at gold producer RioZim’s Cricket Mine and a neighbouring one were flooded by water after the collapse of a dam wall due to heavy rains received in the area at the time.

In his statement on Monday, Minister Zhemu called particularly on artisanal miners to suspend their activities.

“As a precaution, small scale artisanal miners are advised to completely stop mining altogether and resume when the rains stop,” he said.

“Furthermore, miners should cooperate with instructions given by government authorities to ensure safe mining operations.

“It should be noted that Ministry of Mines and Mining Development Inspectors shall be out in full force to ensure that there is compliance with all governance requirements failure of which punishment will be imposed.”

Zhemu also advised miners to avoid working or mining along rivers or water ways as shafts are likely to flood from rain upstream posing risks of drowning.

He said digging and blasting in old mine workings should be avoided because soils easily get saturated while the ground becomes unstable and is bound to collapse anytime with the risk of burying miners alive.

The minister said pillar robbing underground and sinking shafts in low lying areas should be avoided as there is a danger of mines being flooded by free-flowing waters during the rains. – ZimLive