By Cletus Mushanawani
At least 10 artisanal miners died while illegally mining gold at Jumbo Mine in the Mazowe area during the past two months, while 265 were arrested for illegal prospecting or loitering, and 26 cases of assault were reported.
Mashonaland Central provincial police spokesperson Inspector Milton Mundembe said local police had now been reinforced by the Support Unit to help bring sanity to the mining area.
Since last year, when the country’s biggest gold producer, Metallon Gold, put Jumbo Mine under care and maintenance, it has become a haven for informal mining and criminal gangs, with lives being lost in bloody clashes between rival groups.
Although police have confirmed 10 deaths at Jumbo Mine, sources said the figure could be higher as some of the bodies are being dumped in underground tunnels.
“Between November and December we have recorded 10 deaths at Jumbo Mine. These deaths are being recorded in underground tunnels where the illegal mining activities are rampant.
“Some of these illegal artisanal miners are being trapped in mining shafts and their bodies are usually retrieved by their colleagues before informing the police,” said Insp Mundembe.
He said frequent police raids had resulted in the arrest of 95 people prospecting for gold without licences.
“These arrests are for the past two months only and we also arrested 170 people for loitering around Jumbo Mine. Pirate taxis are now frequenting the area and we impounded 40 vehicles. Assault cases have also increased in the area and 26 cases were reported at Mazowe Police Station.
“We are doing joint operations with our counterparts from the Support Unit. These operations will be continuous across all gold mining areas across the whole province,” he said.
“Those interested in mining should take advantage of Government policies and acquire the relevant papers. They should form syndicates and register with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.
“We also want to discourage them from operating at some of the disused mines as they risk being poisoned by gases that have accumulated in the mines,” said Insp Mundembe.
On the carrying of dangerous weapons, Insp Mundembe said: “Machetes and other dangerous weapons are not allowed. We will be on the lookout during this festive season because we do not want to hear cases of bloody clashes.
“We know some of them usually hide these weapons, but we want to urge members of the public to inform the police so that those moving around with these dangerous weapons are brought to book.
“We are also discouraging people from using private vehicles as they risk falling victim to armed robbers who will also be preying on the travelling public. They risk losing their valuables to armed robbers so they should use public transport.”
Artisanal miners have been wreaking havoc along Mazowe River where they are now coming closer to the high-security Mazowe Earth Satellite Station and threatening citrus farms.
In a recent e-mailed response to this publication, TelOne managing director Mrs Chipo Mtasa confirmed the presence of gold panners near the satellite station.
“Indeed, TelOne recently received reports that there are some gold panners a few kilometres from our Mazowe Satellite Earth Station. However, the reports do not come with the magnitude that sends panic as the site is a national key point with tight security and is under surveillance hence unauthorised access is not possible,” she said. The Herald