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Government urged to address rising Penhalonga mining deaths

A flooded mining shaft in Penhalonga

By Clayton Masekesa

MUTARE – Community-Based Organizations (CBOs) are calling on the government to show commitment to investigate the increasing deaths of people in mining incidences at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga.

The CBOs include Centre for Research and Development (CRD), Penhalonga Youth Development Trust (PYDT), Zivai Community Empowerment Trust (ZICET), Penhalonga Service Delivery Committee (PSDC), and Penhalonga Residents and Ratepayers Trust (PRRT).

In a joint statement at a press conference held in Mutare recently, the CBOs said they were alarmed by the rise in cases of artisanal gold mine workers who are losing their lives in dangerous mining shafts created by Better Brands Mining Company.

The CBOs claimed that halfway through the month of January 2023, four people had died from ground collapse and flooding in a shaft.

The CBOs further revealed that 47 artisanal mine workers (25 in 2021 and 22 in 2022) were confirmed by relevant officials to have lost their lives in mining shafts. Six of the 22 artisanal mine workers died in November 2022.

“Sources working in the mining pits indicated that over 100 people have lost their lives in the pits since 2020, but some are not officially recorded. Others highlighted that fatal incidences were occurring almost every week in the mining pits,” said the CBOs.

Mining sources interviewed also confirmed the high rate of fatal incidences taking place at Redwing Mine and underlined the lack of transparency and accountability in the documentation of fatal incidences at Redwing Mine.

“We gathered that in December 2020, Better Brands was awarded a non-standard tributary agreement by the government through the Mining Affairs Board to undertake surface and underground mining activities at Redwing Mine. Since 2020, we have observed that Better Brands has engaged artisanal miners in subsistence surface mining operations at Redwing Mine in what appears to be lack of capacity by the company to invest in modern large scale gold mining,” read the statement.

“We have noticed that these artisanal mine workers are poorly resourced. They are dying from shaft and roof collapsing as a result of weak and unsupported ground. Some are also dying from falling into unprotected pits ranging from 30 to 50 metres deep,” said the CBOs.

The CBOs are concerned that mining operations at Redwing Mine are in complete violation of statutory instrument 109 of 1990 (Management and Safety) Regulations, 190.

“There is no barricading to working sites and steeply inclined shafts, no protection to blasting fumes, dust, and gases, no protective clothing including lifeline and life jackets, no precautionary measures in working distances of less than 10 metres, no adequate timbering to prevent fall of ground among other issues,” said the CBOs.

The CBOs have called for the immediate stoppage of artisanal mining operations and challenged the government to effect accountability measures that will secure lives.

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Byron Adonis Mutingwende