By Fungi Kwaramba
First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa yesterday visited Cricket Mine in the Battlefields area, the scene of the recent mine shaft disaster that has so far claimed 24 lives.
Four artisanal miners are still trapped in the mine shaft as rescue operations continue while distraught relatives wait patiently for their relatives dead or alive.
Eight miners were rescued from one of the shafts, which had been flooded by water almost a week ago.
Speaking to scores of miners in this weather-beaten land, the first lady said the disaster that struck the nation should set in motion enactment of laws that ensure the safety of miners comes first.
“I was looking at the names of the deceased, some of them were still very young. They came from different areas of the country. I think time has now come for a revision of mining laws so that they are made stiffer and ensure the safety of miners.
“We would want to see JOC (Joint Operations Command) monitor mining activities in the country so that we will not have a similar disaster in future,” she said.
The country’s artisanal miners contributed 60 percent of the nation’s gold total output last year but they work in difficult conditions with scant regard to their safety and also the environment.
Minister of Tourism and Environment Prisca Mupfumira who was also part of the delegation said soon they are going to sit down as stakeholders and craft laws that will ensure and assure above all else the safety of miners who are commonly known as makorokoza.
“As government we shall sit down and come up with laws that protect the miners and the environment. We should avoid similar accidents in future,”said Mupfumira.
Four families whose relatives are still trapped underground continue to keep vigil at the mine as water pumps continue pumping the water from the mine shaft where the four miners are trapped.
According to the artisanal miners who are risking lives trying to rescue their colleagues trapped inside, the water is still in level two.
“Although we now have pumps the operation may take longer because of the water levels. When the four entered they were going to level five and I think that is where they are trapped,”said one of the brave miners.
During the rescue operation, government failed to provide the rescuers leaving the untrained artisanal miners with the burden to bring their colleagues to the ground.
Speaking at the same occasion, president of the small miners federation Henrietta Rushwaya said it might be time for a brief hiatus in mining activities until mines meet the standard safety regulations.
“We need to take the necessary precautionary measures. If that had been done we would have ensured that this wouldn’t happen again. We must come up with measures. We don’t want a repeat of this. This has been recurring over the years and it’s time where we urge government to shutdown mines that do not meet the regulations.
“It is high time we come together to avoid such tragedies. In the year 2016 our sector contributed 22 tonnes and that is huge. We want government to have a rethink on artisanal miners because they are critical stakeholders,” said Rushwaya. DailyNews