EIGHTY-FOUR artisanal miners have been arrested in Umguza during a police blitz on illegal mining in Matabeleland North.
The illegal miners appeared in court on Wednesday charged with prospecting for gold without a licence.
Thirty four women and 50 men were arrested while allegedly prospecting illegally for gold at Sunace Mine, Arda in Umguza.
Most of the accused persons came from Lupane, Umguza, Nyamandlovu, Inyathi, Bubi, Binga and Kensington.
Magistrate Mkhwananzi gave the group’s court appearance dates from May 21 to 24, giving reasons that they were too many and could not all be dealt with in a single court room in one session. “When the group arrived in court with police officers, they could not be accommodated at the set down offices, which is the first port of call for suspects prior to court appearances. They then had to be taken to holding cells at the court.
Some of the alleged illegal miners include Nkosiyazi Moyo (23), Sipho Ndlovu (32), Ishmael Munsaka (20), Joshua Munsaka (29), Anex Ncube (18), Sikhumbuzo Ndlovu (43), Latin Nyoni (22), Sibangani Sibanda (37) and Thembinkosi Ncube (32). They all pleaded not guilty to contravening section 368(1) of the Mines and Minerals Act (prospecting for gold without a licence).
He said police busted the group as 43 of them were working in the mine while the rest were having lunch a few metres away from those that were still on their shift. There were temporary settlements at the area which had belongings of the suspects, including clothes, blankets, cooking pots and mining tools.
The police officers found the accused persons prospecting for gold at the mine.
They were asked to produce their permits or prospecting licences and they failed leading to their arrest.
The court heard that they were found using picks, shovels and hammers which were produced in court as exhibits._The Chronicle