THREE people believed to be artisan miners are reportedly trapped inside an unused quarry in the Mirerari Mining Hills of Simanjiro and it is suspected that they are all dead because the surface layer caved in.
They had apparently sneaked their way into the closed shafts leading to the Tanzanite One Limited Block C' quarry in a group but others managed to escape, one being Mr Gidish Benedict, a resident of Babati, Manyara Region who raised the alarm after succeeding to climb from the pit.
"I am not sure if my friends are alive, because the rock crash was horrid," said Mr Benedict who mentioned the lost miners as Mr Said Mgosi, the group leader and two others he identified by their single names of Khalid and Dominic.
The Manyara Regional Police Commander (RPC), Mr Fabian Massawe, has confirmed the incident, saying that a search team was still working round the clock to trace the lost miners.
Mr Apolinary Modest, the Acting Director for Sky Associate Limited, the firm which owns Tanzanite One mining operations at the Mirerani Hills, said, "The miners went down since last Monday, that is six days ago, digging an underground tunnel from an unused pit trench with the intention of stealing Tanzanite gemstones from our shaft," he claimed.
Mr Modest is of the view that the intruders, after completing their five-day underground treasure trove mission, they started climbing up and almost reached the surface last Friday when they struck a pillar rock with their equipment, causing the whole upper layer to fall onto them, burying the miners.
However other miners of Mirerani who preferred anonymity believe their mates were purposely buried in the pit by some unknown people upon learning that there were some people in the quarry, which automatically makes the incident to be murder.
But the Sky Associate official said it was a mere accident and his company has already flown in experts from South Africa to help in the rescue mission. "It is too early to tell whether the three miners are still alive or already dead, but on the other hand, they could have escaped using other tunnels because they know the underground routes very well," said Mr Modest.
He explained that the area is made up of more than 100 closed quarries, but some miners have been unblocking them and using the pits as alternative gateway into underground shafts where they have been seeking the blue gemstones.