Zimbabwe: Chinese Firm Halts Search Operations for Trapped Miners At Premier Estates

30 November 2020

Mutasa — The Chinese mining company operating in Premier Estate where 10 illegal miners were believably buried alive after the firm sealed some pits during a land reclamation exercise says it has halted search operations until police produce concrete evidence there were indeed missing persons from the local community.

According to police, only two bodies have been recovered from the rescue mission.

Zhong Jin general manager Yancey Feng said they were willing to cooperate with relevant authorities but were halting the mission for now until police complete their investigations and identify the proper location.

"We have halted mission after working for four continuous days. We will cooperate and we are willing to assist the community but only after police completes investigations and identify the proper location.

"It's expensive to continue running the equipment without identifying the proper location," said Feng.

He said his company was contracted by Zimgold to conduct a land reclamation exercise and was not yet into mining although it later turned out it was hired by a company from Belarus.

"We have not started mining but waiting for approval to mine in partnership with Zimgold. So far, we are just filling the pits," Feng said.

He disputed claims the firm has embarked on a land reclamation exercise without notifying the local community.

"We had the blessings of the police," he said.

Speaking before a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development that toured the disaster area last week, Acting Officer Commanding Mutasa District Superintendent Phillip Nyateka confirmed that a notice was issued before the reclamation exercise.

"Our duty was to provide security and not lead the investor in doing his operations. We were not involved in anything other than providing what we are sanctioned to do by the Constitution.

"Reports we received of missing persons were three. The first one turned out to be positive. There was a man who was living with his in-laws and lied that he was going to Mutare river but going to Premier Estates. It was later discovered that he was among those who were buried alive," said Nyateka.

The top-ranking police officer sought the assistance from the company through the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) and the bodies of the victims were retrieved and positively identified.

Nyateka dismissed reports that Mozambicans were flocking the gold rich mining area, saying only locals were being involved in such activities.

He said police searched for the nine bodies but could not locate them, adding that the informants could not give the particulars of the illegal miners.

"So, the claim that nine bodies are missing is just hearsay. Of all the three reports we received, the one with two bodies retrieved from the shaft turned out to be true.

"We do not have any outstanding reports of missing people from the shafts as police," said the top cop.

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