Editor’s Memo: Govt sacrificing lives at the altar of gold

In 2019, the southern African country recorded 116 mining accidents with 182 deaths, and in 2021, 121 accidents and 139 fatalities.

Once upon a time in Zimbabwe, a death in the mines was considered big news, it was unheard of because of the high standards in place and fiercely enforced by government.

Now they are commonplace as thousands of the unemployed men in Zimbabwe’s gold-rich areas seek to earn a living by working in unregulated mines with little to no safety procedures.

Mining methods are often rudimentary which often makes  inevitable.

And the number of those dying has been rising with each year.

In 2019, the southern African country recorded 116 mining accidents with 182 deaths, and in 2021, 121 accidents and 139 fatalities.

In 2022, Deputy Chief Mining Engineer, Tapererwa Paswavaviri noted that in the first nine months to September 30 of that year, the country had recorded 125 mining accidents with 139 fatalities.

On average, the country was recording one mining fatality every day!

Incidents of mine collapses, mostly involving artisanal miners, are common in the southern African country that is rich in gold and diamonds.

Artisanal mining, or panning, is one of the few activities still going on in an economy that has seen regular industry closures, rolling power cuts, a currency crisis and high unemployment since the turn of the new millennium.

Mineral-rich national parks, rivers and abandoned mines are often the target of the hordes seeking to find valuable deposits.

But happenings at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga best illustrate the dangers facing miners when safety protocols are ignored.

About 15 miners are believed to have perished following a mineshaft collapse at the mine yesterday morning.

The mine, located 50 kilometres west of the eastern border city of Mutare, is owned by Mabvuku-Tafara legislator and businessman, Pedzai Scott Sakupwanya.

While the mine is owned by the Metallon group, it is being managed by Better Brands under a tributary arrangement.

Redwing was one of Zimbabwe's largest gold-producing mines but has become a byword for neglect, vice, social ills, environmental destruction, crime and general decay of infrastructure.

In January 2023, mining operations at Redwing were suspended due to the issuance of a non-compliance notice by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA).

Clinton Tapiwa Masanga, the director of the Penhalonga Youth Development Trust last year flagged the management style of Sakupwanya’s Better Brands.

“There is also the issue of high accident rates and deaths because Better Brands does not follow safety measures that are required by the laws of the country,” he noted then.

That pattern seems to have been allowed to continue, and latest remarks by Mines Minister Soda Zhemu expose the government’s lack of concern at the happenings at that mine.

In a statement to announce the accident, 14 hours after the event, he said: I have established that Metallon Gold Redwing has been tributing mining areas at Redwing even to individuals.

The shaft that collapsed was under some individuals and the people trapped were workers of the tribute. Management of tributed areas falls under the principal owner, Metallon Gold in this case.

Therefore, the rescue team from Metallon has been leading in the rescue effort supported by Ministry of Mines and other stakeholders including ZRP and Civil Protection.”

Seriously! Anything to avoid pointing fingers at the real culprit?

In January last year, three civic groups comprised of the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), Ziva Community Empowerment Trust (ZCET), and Penhalonga Youth Development Ratepayers Trust (PYDRT), issued a joint statement claiming that 100 artisanal had died at the mine since 2020.

Just how many lives have to be sacrificed at Sakupwanya’s altar of gold before authorities shut it down?

Related Topics