Michael Magoronga, Midlands Correspondent
EFFORTS to rescue three miners who have been trapped for about three weeks in a mineshaft in Kwekwe, have been abandoned as the mine is flooded with water, making it too risky to proceed with the operation.
The three miners fell into a disused mine pit at Yellow Snake Mine just outside Kwekwe while sleeping in the early hours on 13 January and efforts to rescue have been going on since then. The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Development however, in a letter ordered the suspension of rescue efforts citing dangerous working conditions.
“Following an assessment done by a technical team from the Provincial Mining Director’s office, on 18 January 2021 of the progress on the ground regarding the rescue of the three artisanal miners trapped underground at Yellow Snake Mine, it was noted that the area continues to collapse and the extent of the old mining workings cannot be ascertained which poses a risk to the lives of any rescue team members who continue to attempt with the operations.” read part of the letter signed by acting Midlands provincial mining director, Engineer Terrence Musekiwa.
“With that in mind, the office has decided to abandon the rescue operations since it has been deemed unsafe,” further read the letter.
Kwekwe District acting Civil Protection Unit chairperson Mr Clemence Muduma said the place was no longer safe for rescue operations to continue given the incessant rains.
“We had gone as deep as 50 metres without any trace of the trapped miners. We tried in vain to pump the water but given the torrential rains, we were not successful as the water table is high. Ongoing rains also made it difficult as some parts of the mine are caving in putting lives in danger,” said Mr Muduma.
He said their wish was to retrieve the trapped miners and give them a decent burial.
“Hopes of finding the miners alive have faded given the time they have been underground. But we hoped that at least we retrieve the bodies and give them a decent burial according to our culture. Fellow miners, police, army and the mine owner all worked tirelessly as we tried to rescue the miners but we have no option but to abandon the mission,” said Mr Muduma.
Midlands provincial police spokesperson Inspector Emmanuel Mahoko said on the fateful day, six mine workers were sleeping in a tent when disaster struck.
“They were sleeping about four metres away for the disused pit when they were awakened by a rumbling sound and woke up to discover that the ground was caving in. Three of them escaped to safety while the other three disappeared as the ground collapsed,” said Inspector Mahoko.
He identified the missing miners as Edwin Ndlovu, Obvious Ndlovu and Melusi Sibindi.
Inspector Mahoko warned members of the public that it is dangerous to engage mining activities without regularly checking on safety and adhering to the guidelines provided by the mines and minerals act.
“I implore upon everyone doing or engaged in mining activities to fully comply with all rules and regulations that guide mining activities that we may save precious lives,” he said.