Brenna Matendere

Scores of artisanal miners are feared dead in Kwekwe after Globe and Phoenix mine collapsed in the early hours of yesterday.

Kwekwe district head of civil protection unit and district administrator, Fortune Mpungu told Southern Eye that the process of retrieving the dead bodies of people trapped was ongoing.

“I can confirm that a section of the mine collapsed. We are told that a huge boulder collapsed and it trapped the artisanal miners who were inside. So far we have retrieved two bodies and some are still trapped inside,” he said.

The mine is the oldest in Kwekwe as it was pegged on the site of ancient gold workings in 1894 by prospectors Edward Thornton Pearson and Joseph Schukala.

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It is located a few hundred metres from the Central Business District westwards.

At the moment the mine has not been operating formally as it was shut down long back but illegal artisanal miners known as Makorokoza have been finding their way into the shafts during the night when police are not noticing them.

When Southern Eye arrived at the scene yesterday afternoon, police and some artisanal miners were busy trying to retrieve the bodies and search for any survivors. The bodies that had been were wrapped by some blankets but were later ferried to Kwekwe General Hospital mortuary.

Mpungu agreed that those trapped had trespassed into the shafts.

“Yes, no company has been operating at the mine lately but the artisanal miners have just been sneeking into the underground shafts illegally. At this stage we are not very sure of the numbers that are trapped in terms of the dead bodies but we are working to retrieve all the dead bodies.”

“What we have done is to use explosives to blast the huge boulder that is trapping the miners. That process is still ongoing and there is a big cloud of dust underground right now which makes us unable to see anything or count the bodies,” he said.

Sources said the artisanal miners have been blasting the pillars that hold fort the underground miners resulting in it becoming weak to an extent of collapsing.

However, Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya said some people indicated to him that about 15 people could be trapped underground.

“It is reported that the artisanal miners enter through a pit on the southern side of town and work on the old workings left by the previous mining company. This then weakens the roof of the tunnels resulting in the pillers falling and this is what happened in this case. There are 4 people confirmed to be under the boulder although the actual total figure is suspected to be about 15,” he said.