Zimbabwe: Inadequate Supervision Worsens Mining Deaths

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The mining industry has suffered several fatal accidents over the past 12 months, mainly because of corruption and inadequate monitoring of mining activities by government.

This comes at a time when illegal artisanal gold mining activities have been on the increase.

Over the past year, several accidents have been recorded; including the flooding of Battlefields mine in Kadoma, which killed 28 people and the collapse of Eldorado mine in Chinhoyi, killing 11 men in two separate incidents.

Other accidents include the collapse of Shurugwi's Wonderer mine, trapping over 50 artisanal and illegal gold miners underground and the Nugget gold mine collapse in May, which killed eight people, as well as the blast at Mazowe mine in which eight people died.

Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) spokesperson Dosman Mangisi said unmonitored mining activities are the root cause of the accidents.

"The major causes of these accidents are unsupervised mining operations, lack of people who can lead and monitor operations, especially on areas of drilling and blasting, that is where we see a number of accidents taking place.

Dewatering and lack of proper maintenance in the shaft development are also among the major causes. The situation could be controlled if government licenced these artisanal miners," Mangisi said.

Gold is a major earner of foreign currency in Zimbabwe. Artisan and small-scale miners contributed 65,5% of the total gold brought to Fidelity Printers and Refiners in 2018.

Despite its contribution to national growth, the mining methods of artisanal miners are backward.

According to a report earlier this year by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy, the ministry needs US$3,9 billion in the next five years for developmental purposes.

An official from the Ministry of Environment, Tourism and Hospitality said government has been hesitant to deal with illegal miners because of political reasons.

"If you remember very well, Environmental Management Agency was effective within the first three years of its establishment. However, of late, it has been a toothless bulldog. This is mostly because of the lack of separation between politics and environmental conservation. The agency is greatly limited by the involvement of those with political influence. Secondly, the department is greatly understaffed, hence limiting its coverage," the official said.

Former chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Energy Temba Mliswa has accused government of being evasive about investing into and developing the mining sector.

"The Minister of Mines (Winston Chitando), together with the Environmental Management Agency must put an end to miners operating illegally. They have every reason to, according to law, track down and shut down the illegal mines. But they are not keen to do so because these mines are secretly operated by big names. It is a political issue. There is no rule of law, law enforcement agencies are failing to play their part because of the politicians involved, hence there is no investment," Mliswa said in an interview with businessdigest.

In September last year, parliament proposed to amend the Mines and Minerals Bill, with the aim of improving mining conditions for both local and foreign investors. However, the Bill did not see the light of day, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa refused to sign the amendments, pointing out that they were compiled without the concern of proprietors.

Mliswa pinpointed corruption as the major drawback to the success of the Bill.

"It is high time someone made some noise concerning these accidents. It is not right because these miners are being prejudiced and manipulated by politicians, yet through the bill, they could have the authorisation to operate in their own capacity.

"If the Minister (of Mines) really wants the Bill to work, he should go and stop illegal mining. He should also deploy soldiers and police officers to guard the area for a period of six months, while he processes the Bill, after which miners will be legalised and regulated by law to ensure their safety, thereby reducing accidents and deaths being recorded," Mliswa said.

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