20 November 2012

Mozambique: Eight Miners Die in Manica Collapse

Maputo — Eight miners died last Friday when an illegal gold mine collapsed in Macossa district, in the central Mozambican province of Manica.

According to a statement issued on Tuesday by the Ministry of Mineral Resources, the collapse occurred in the area of Kasse, where about 300 miners were digging illegally for gold.

The Provincial Directorate of Mineral Resources, in coordination with the Macossa district authorities, investigated the causes of the accident, and concluded that the miners had disobeyed instructions given by a government team that had visited the area.

The team consisted of the district administrator, the local police commander and attorney, directors of the security service (SISE) and of the district economic activities services (SDAE), as well as mineral resources staff. They told the miners to stop digging – an instruction that was disregarded with tragic consequences.

The team gave their instructions, not only because the miners had no authorisation, but because Kasse is within an area of environmental conservation, where no mining activity is allowed, and because the erosion was such that a collapse of the mining shaft in the near future was all too probable.

The man behind the illegal mining, Alvaro Mussage, holds a mining marketing operator card. This form of licence only entitles its holder to sell minerals, not to mine them.

Since he violated the condition of his licence, Mussage has been ordered to bear the costs of the funerals of the dead miners. The Ministry did not say whether Mussage will face any criminal proceedings.

The non-governmental organisation Environmental Justice (JA) has urged the government to exercise greater control over artisanal mining, in order to save lives and avoid the pillaging of the country’s natural resources.

JA estimates that about 30,000 Mozambican and foreign citizens are involved in artisanal mining, under extremely dangerous conditions, in the districts of Manica, Macossa, Sussundenga, Barue and Guro.

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