At least eight illegal gold miners were killed on Thursday, while others are feared dead after a mine shaft collapsed at Chatyoka Mine in Concession.Sources said the gold seam was discovered on Sunday by some metal detectors and news of a gold rush filtered resulting in some illegal miners trooping from as far as Birchenough Bridge.
When tragedy struck, security officers at the mine managed to save the lives of two miners who were trapped closer to the surface.By 4pm yesterday, eight bodies had been retrieved from the mine shaft while sources said between two and four more bodies were still underground.
Police and other mining stakeholders were still searching for more bodies using earthmoving machinery.Mrs Rosemary Marimo, the owner of Chawatama Mine, offered her excavator to assist in the search for the trapped bodies.
The registered owner of the claim Mr Hyde Chatyoka, confirmed the development saying the illegal miners had forcefully invaded his gold mine without his blessings.
“I did not know that there was a gold rush here until Tuesday when I came this side to find the miners jostling to get a chunk from the shaft.“I tried to control the people, but failed. I was in the process of taking the samples from the mine to the relevant authorities with a view to start extracting gold when the people were trapped.
“I had to put security guards on the mine, but on the fateful day the guards were overpowered by the illegal miners.“They got into the shaft without permission before the walls collapsed,” said Mr Chatyoka.
A security guard manning the mine shaft Mr Francis Dhliwayo, said he was involved in the rescuing of the two survivors of the accident.“With my experience in mining, I sensed danger after seeing some anomalies on the walls of the shaft.
“I tried to stop the people from entering, but they could not take my advice.“After unsuccessfully trying to stop the illegal miners from getting inside, I heard noise and rushed to the shaft to investigate.
“I noticed that the walls had collapsed and I managed to rescue two other people who were trapped closer to the surface with the assistance of my colleague who had just arrived.
“The third one died while we were struggling to rescue the first two,” he said.While Mr Chatyoka denied any relations with the illegal miners, sources at Chatyoka Mine Compound told The Herald that there was a mining syndicate involving the mine owner.
Mr Sebastian Chimwala, an uncle to one of the deceased Muchineripi Tembo, said the illegal miners were working together with Mr Chatyoka.
“The miners had an agreement with the owner in which they would share the proceeds. The owners of the metal detectors would get 35 percent, the owner 35 percent and the miners would take the remaining 30 percent.
“The mine was operating without proper security, which led to the collapse of the shaft,” he said.Tembo will be buried today in Concession.
District Administrator for Mazowe Mr Mark Kadaira said Mr Chatyoka could have called the police to assist him in controlling the illegal miners if he was not working with the victims.
“The mining was not proper. There were no safety measures in place as required by law although the owner possessed the papers showing he was allocated the claim.
“It appears there was connivance, but the owner and the guard denied it. If the illegal miners were surely invaders, the owner could have simply called reinforcement from the police to bar the unwanted elements,” said Mr Kadaira.
The DA said his office was not aware of the existence of the mine until the day of the accident.It was also Mr Kadaira’s observation that the security guard did not even have a register of the miners and there was no proper security.Police confirmed the incident yesterday.
In a statement last night, police spokesperson Chief Superintendent Paul Nyathi said: “The Zimbabwe Republic Police would like to confirm the death of seven men who were trapped in a shaft while panning for gold at Giles 18 Mine in Concession on 22 September.
“Circumstances are that 200 panners approached the security at Giles 18 Mine at around 09:30 hours and in the process 12 of them forcibly entered the mine and started extracting gold ore.
“Whilst underground, the mine shaft collapsed and trapped them. Seven bodies have been since retrieved and conveyed to Concession Hospital mortuary for post mortem, while the other five are still to be accounted for.”
Chief Supt Nyathi said the police was conducting investigations into the matter.He warned members of the public to consider their safety and the law while embarking in mining.-Herald