Illegal miners stealing railway ballast to crush as potential gold ore
National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) infrastructure is under threat from illegal miners in some parts of the country who are collecting rail ballast for crushing as potential gold ore.
Ballast is gravel or coarse stone used to form the bed of a railway track or the substratum of a road.
NRZ public affairs and stakeholder relations manager Andrew Kunambura said the gold panners had gone to another level of vandalism, collecting ballast as potential gold ore for crushing at their mills.
“Our infrastructure is under threat from gold panners. The most affected areas are Mazowe in Mashonaland Central, Kwekwe in the Midlands and Chinhoyi in Mashonaland West.
“In Mazowe, they are digging deep under the tracks and even going further to collect ballast in sacks. When they discover gold deposits in an area, they assume that the ballast has potential to be gold ore,” he said while addressing journalists at the Bulawayo Media Centre.
Kunambura said so serious was the matter that they had engaged the Joint Operations Command (JOC) to assist in dealing with the rogue gold panners in these areas.
“In other places we have a situation where a whole community had illegally settled close to the tracks. They dug deep tunnels underneath tracks to the other end.
“Our engineer for infrastructure has established that these panners have got heavy duty equipment such as compressors and grinding machines and you wonder how they have mounted such big equipment.
“We wonder whether they are just common miners, or they are being sponsored to do illegal activities. Kwekwe is another place which is giving us problems,” said Kunambura.
He said the NRZ was grateful to its partners such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) for bringing culprits to book.
Kunambura said they were conducting awareness campaigns in affected areas and urged the media to join the trail.
“We are running campaigns to concertize communities in affected areas as well as publishing reports from our Loss Control department on social media sites. We appeal to the media to join the campaign wagon. NRZ is a public company we all have a role to protect it so that it functions efficiently,” he said.