16 February 2019

Zimbabwe - Several Miners Plucked From Flooded Gold Mine

Photo: New Zimbabwe
Rescue mission at Battlefields mine.

Fears are rising for 60 other miners trapped underground for several days after a dam collapse caused the pit to flood. Reports suggest the men entered the mine illegally at night.

Rescuers in Zimbabwe have pulled nine miners -- all of them under 24 years-old -- alive from a flooded gold mine where more than 60 people have been trapped for three days, state television said on Saturday.

Officials say dozens of their co-workers are still missing and feared dead after the collapse of a dam wall caused the deluge of two shafts at the mine in Kadoma, 75 kilometers (109 miles) west of the capital, Harare.

Local media showed footage of exhausted, muddied survivors being pulled to safety before being carried, without stretchers, to a makeshift clinic.

Several bodies were later retrieved from the tunnels and transported by police truck to a tent for identification. Some reports put the number of dead at 22, so far.

The government has declared the incident a disaster.

One of the survivors said in a video clip posted on social media that the water in the mine rose to neck level, forcing them to stand for days until it receded.

Anxious relatives and other miners have camped out at the mining site to wait for news of their loved ones and colleagues, some expressing frustration at the lack of information they are getting.

"My son is in there. I did not see him when they brought out the others. No one is saying anything, how are we supposed to know what is happening?," said Sekai Maziwisa, a 56-year-old mother of three.

Hard-up government appeals for cash

On Friday, the government launched an appeal for $200,000 (€177,000) to be used in the rescue and recovery operation, warning that up to 70 miners were trapped.

The local head of the Civil Protection Unit, Cecilia Chitiyo, called for donations of body bags, masks, gloves, diesel fuel, and other needed items.

Preliminary assessments indicated that the miners were operating illegally.

"These miners were operating along a water channel which is against the Mines and Minerals Act," Deputy Mines Minister Polite Kambarami told the DPA news agency.

"They tried to block the water channel 300 meters away from where the shafts are, but there was a flood leading to their submersion."

Police said the miners had illegally entered the mine, owned by RioZim, using darkness as a cover.

The tragedy has shone a light on the risks run by illegal gold miners, who last year contributed a large part of Zimbabwe's record 33-ton (30,000 kilograms) bullion output.

Zimbabwe has been mired in a deep economic crisis since the late 1990s leading to waves of hyperinflation that hasleft much of the population in poverty.

(AFP, AP, DPA, Reuters)

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