- October 21, 2020
- Posted in LOCAL
Early last month five mineworkers were trapped underground at Task Mining Syndicate in Chegutu after the shaft they were working in collapsed.
Rudairo Dickson Mapuranga
Chegutu District Development Coordinator Tariro Tomu accompanied by the Police reportedly instructed all the rescue work to cease and all access points to the accident scene sealed raising fears that the incident might be a déjà vu of what happened at Eskoven Mine in Matebeleland South last year on which rescue operations were banned up to date the miner is yet to be retrieved. Mines and Mining Development Ministry however denied ever sending Tome to halt operations as they only sent a letter he produced in confidence.
The trapped Miners are Constantino Dzinoreva (47), Charles Mutume (31), Shingai Gwatidzo (20) and brothers Crynos Nyamukanga (44) and a minor Munashe Christian (17) from Zvimba.
What Should the government do?
Speaking to Mining Zimbabwe, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development Hon E Mkaratigwa said that the Mines Ministry should have used a participatory approach in solving the issue before rushing to abandon rescue operations.
Mkaratigwa said the Ministry of Mines should ensure that they are prepared and able to reduce deaths and accidents in the small scale and artisanal mining sector.
Mkaratigwa said under any circumstances the rescue operations were not supposed to be abandoned because not rescuing can cause more emotional damage and hopelessness to the families, relatives, friends and coworkers of the trapped.
“The DA has acted in his capacity as the District Civil Protection Committee Chairperson but it is not customary for us as Zimbabweans not to scale up efforts to rescue our relatives and in particular citizens in danger as the government. All options should be exhausted and if there is a willingness, then there is a way that we can exploit and rescue these people”.
“The approach to these issues should be participatory and consultative also with the affected people because usually, they also have initiatives that can be tapped into. The only challenge is this is an emotional incident and people have to remain objective also, put heads together and act within the shortest possible time. I am very much convinced that the Ministry of Mines should invest more in risk and emergency management to ensure that they are always prepared and able to reduce deaths. The Portfolio Committee’s attention has really been drawn to this matter and we will deliberate and put pressure on the government to ensure that the milky cow continues to produce with lesser hindrances”.
“We should not create another disaster in trying to reduce another and with such approaches, we can cause more emotional damage and hopelessness to the families, relatives, friends and coworkers of the trapped.
“The Civil Protection Directorate falls under the domain of the Portfolio Committee of Local Government so we have also been consulting on way forward”.
“Our message as a Committee is, those miners have to be rescued as that will create more confidence especially among these vulnerable miners although disaster risk reduction, preparedness, quick response and rescue are what we need going forward,” said Hon Mkaratigwa.
The Miners union response
Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAWU) has questioned the government’s capacity to engage in a rescue mission. The Union’s General Secretary Justice Chinhema said the government has no capacity whatsoever to rescue miners who are trapped underground has evidenced by the Eskoven Mine accident.
“What we see happening at Task Mine happened at Eskoven mine in Mat South last year. The government through the mining inspector advised relatives and other rescuing teams that it was no longer safe to retrieve a trapped person, up to date, the remains of a worker are underground buried there. Relatives, children of the workers never got a chance to recover him. It’s sad, and we have said our Government has no capacity to recover or rescue people in times of disasters like the one at Task mine.” said Chinhema.
According to the ZDAWU General Secretary, the government must support and speed up the process of formalisation of small-scale and artisanal miners because the sector has been infiltrated by unscrupulous elements who are benefiting from the chaos created by lack of transparency in the sector.
Chinhema said some government officials do not want to see the sector formalised because they would want to benefit from abandoned mines which are unsafe for mining operations, it was therefore important for the affected to push or force the government to act through the courts of law.
“The government must just put a law that compels every mining activities to formalise their operations because some corrupt officials from the Ministry of Mines, who also do not want to see formalisation of small scale Miners or artisanal mining.”
“We have said on several occasions that abandoned mines, operating mines are no longer safe especially those being worked by illegal miners. We have also said, the government must speed up the formalisation policy to regulate activities of artisanal miners.”
“In future, we are going to sue through a class action so that government is pushed to retrieve. We will also be causing families of people to demand restitution from government and owners of mines that would have collapsed.” He said.
What should small scale miners do?
Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF), the largest body which represents the small scale and artisanal miners in Zimbabwe should come up with strategies that ensure that accident in the ASM sector is reduced and that support, when such happens, is available immediately.
This, therefore, means that ZMF should push for the official and unofficial formalisation of the sector through workshops and other communication strategies to the miners.
The Federation must make sure that miners don’t ignore the dangers that can before them when mining, this is to say that, miners must accept that the mining industry is inherently filled with danger and stay alert every moment on the job.
Miners should never compromise the safety of their employees when trying to meet deadlines or to boost the quality of work. All risks should be assessed, including the possibility of accidents so that accidents in the sector may be reduced.
The Federation should ensure that all small scale and artisanal miners get professional training, all team members should undergo regular safety training. When accidents happen, all team members should know exactly what to do. Safety procedures must be clearly defined. When documenting the safety procedures, describe the various incidents that might occur, what needs to be done and whom to contact. Safety procedures should be displayed prominently in locations that can be easily accessed by team members.
ZMF must also encourage its miners to use equipment that is safe for miners so that unnecessary accident occurs in the sector.