Efforts have been suspended to rescue or recover the bodies of five miners trapped underground at Task Mining Syndicate in Chegutu 30 days ago when a mineshaft collapsed since more people may die in the dangerous ground although there is now no hope of finding survivors.
Once Cabinet confirms the abandonment of the search mission, all access points into the shaft will be sealed off, making the shaft in effect a grave for Constantino Dzinoreva (47), Charles Mutume (31), Crynos Nyamukanga (44) Shingai Gwatidzo (20) and Munashe Christian (17).
Local Government and Public Works Deputy Minister Cde Marian Chombo said the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), which falls under the ministry, had indicated the need to abandon the rescue efforts because the continuous collapse of the shaft could endanger more people.
She said the unit was working with the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development which is an active member of the Cabinet Committee on Environment Disaster Prevention and Management.
“The role of Civil Protection Unit, through its decentralised structures, is to coordinate operations while technical expertise come from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development. To date, from the reports they have sent to us, they’ve indicated that we need to abandon the rescue efforts due to the continuous collapse of the shaft. However the chairman of the committee is to report to Cabinet on the technical advice given by the subnational structures. In this case, Cabinet will make the final decision,” she said.
CPU director Mr Nathan Nkomo said they were awaiting Cabinet’s decision on the way forward with the unit’s decision to suspend the rescue effort being premised on findings by the Ministry of Mines.
Cabinet would deliberate on the final report presented on the rescue operations after which a decision on whether or not to permanently halt operations would be made.
“We can’t put a final closure on the rescue effort as we are guided by the Cabinet’s decision. As the Civil Protection Unit, we acted upon recommendations provided by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development which has been an integral part in the rescue efforts of the five trapped miners.
“We took seriously the recommendations given by Mines officials and decided to suspend rescue efforts until Cabinet’s decision on the way forward as was done to the Chimanimani Cyclone Idai rescue efforts.
“As CPU, we acted to save the lives of the rescuers who faced the danger of getting trapped by unstable ground,” he said.
Chief Government mining engineer, Michael Munodawafa, said he had earlier recommended that operations be done carefully considering that the ground was wobbling.
“The last time we recommended to the CPU that since operations were becoming dangerous considering unstable ground, there was a need to be careful and monitor operations. However, the decision to halt operations by CPU was a collective decision emanating from discoveries and recommendations given,” he said.
A report written by Chegutu district development coordinator, Mr Tariro Tomu to Task Mining Syndicate management, shows that the operations were stopped after they proved to be unsuccessful owing to safety challenges.
“A technical report from the Ministry of Mines has shown that operations are proving to be unsuccessful because of safety challenges. There is continuous fall of ground within the collapsed zone,” read part of the report.
The report also showed that the accident area was becoming more unstable and unsafe as most of the support pillars were mined out before the accident.
“There is no second escape route in case of emergency and the plan of installing a bulkhead and allowing people to work below it is a risky operation as there is a high risk of it falling thereby exposing the workers to great danger if trapped,” reads the report.
Under the Mining Management and Safety Regulations, all rescue operations and retrieval of the bodies were ordered stopped with immediate effect.
Task Mining Syndicate chairperson, Mr Timothy Masviba said the mine was going to engage the Government to be allowed to rescue the trapped miners.
Families have not lost hope of finding their relatives alive and are still camped at the mine premises where they are imploring Government to extend the operation to help the trapped workers.
They have also petitioned Mashonaland West Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, the Minister of Mines and Minerals Development, Winston Chitando, the local legislator, Webster Shamhu and Chief Ngezi to convince CPU to continue with the operation.
Minister Mliswa-Chikoka urged the family members to understand the Government’s decision as it was coming from experts and aimed at protecting lives.