Tempers flared yesterday at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga where about 11 artisanal miners were trapped underground after a mine shaft collapsed, with relatives accusing government of fumbling the rescue mission.
Metallon Corporation, which owns Redwing Mine, said 11 miners were trapped after the shaft collapsed with initial assessments pointing to earth tremors as the possible cause of the accident.
The shaft in the Tsapauta area was said to be in a tribute operated by individuals. who use artisanal miners to carry out the gold-mining activities.
Some relatives of the missing miners who were camped at the site said no rescue efforts had been done since tragedy struck last Thursday contrary to assertions by the Mines ministry on Friday amid claims that up to 15 miners could be inside the collapsed shaft.
Elizabeth Zhou, who has four trapped relatives, accused government officials of lying about the incident as nothing had been done to rescue the missing miners.
Zhou travelled from Gwanda in Matabeleland South after hearing about the accident.
“Maybe the rescue mission is starting today (yesterday) and I don’t know why the government was lying all these days, but the nation should know the truth,” she charged.
“The people who are expected to be conducting the rescue mission are demanding food from us and this is sad. Where would l get the money from?
“We are pleading with other countries to come and help because we might not have the adequate equipment to rescue our relatives.”
Fortunate Mapuranga from Karoi said his son and another relative were among those trapped.
“They may be alive,” Mapuranga said. “l am still hopeful that my son and one relative are still alive.”
Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution minister Misheck Mugadza told The Standard that they had received support from outside the province in a bid to rescue the miners.
“The rescue efforts are continuing and we are receiving support from other mining companies that have sent teams and other equipment,” Mugadza said.
“We are hopeful of positive results, but we are also cognisant of the difficult mission that we have embarked on.”
In a press statement yesterday, the Centre for Research and Development (CRD) led by James Mupfumi and Penhalonga Youth and Development Trust led by Clinton Masanga said the government must be held accountable for the tragedy.
“CRD and Penhalonga Youth Development Trust hold the government accountable for the unfolding mining disaster at Redwing Mine,” the organisations said.
“Fifteen artisanal miners are feared dead after the collapse of Tsapauta Adit at Redwing Mine.
“Information gathered by CRD indicates that the previous mining operations by Betterbrands had depleted surface and shaft pillars, local mining experts interviewed indicate that the mine collapse could have occurred between level 4 and 5, which is about 140 to 180 metres.”
Betterbrands is owned by Zanu PF MP for Mabvuku Scott Sakupwanya.
Centre for Natural Resources Governance director Farai Maguwu, who was also in Tsapauta yesterday, said mine management had been warned of the impending collapse before last week’s tragedy.
“There was prior warning before the mine collapsed,” Maguwu said.
“There is no mine that can collapse without a warning.
“There was a young miner, who came out from the mine a day before after there was some shaking underground and he never went back down there.
“It seems there was no professional supervisor to warn against the mining collapse, which could have been avoided.
“There were some miners, who were about to enter the shaft when the accident happened and they survived.”
Meanwhile, several illegal miners camping at the site expressed fears that there could be more people trapped underground.
“We know this game and there might be more than 15 people in the shaft because there are some illegal miners, who can sneak into the mine and this is well known,” an illegal miner, who refused to be named said.
Zanu PF Manicaland provincial chairman Tawanda Mukodza said the rescue mission was being affected by poor weather conditions.
“It’s very unfortunate that the weather has been not good but rescue missions are ongoing,” Mukodza said
Mines minister Zhemu Soda visited the area on Friday.
Mining operations at Redwing have been undertaken by unsanctioned subsistence miners since the mine was placed under cooperate rescue in 2020, Metallon Gold said in a statement on Friday.
In October last year, 10 illegal gold miners died at the disused Bay Horse Mine after a shaft collapsed.
Around 42 artisanal miners were rescued in a complicated mission that went on for several days.