Kwekwe Buildings Collapse Due To Mining Underneath
21 April 2024
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The Undermining of Kwekwe: How Illegal Mining Threatens a Zimbabwean Community

In the heart of Zimbabwe, Kwekwe, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s hometown, is facing an unprecedented crisis. The city, known for its rich gold deposits, is now suffering from a dangerous and illegal exploitation of its resources.

Building collapses underneath

A network of illicit mining activities, referred to locally as “korokozas,” is causing significant distress. These underground operations have dug extensive tunnels, some as deep as 1.5 kilometers beneath Kwekwe’s central business district and residential areas, posing a severe risk to the community and its infrastructure.

A recent study by the Zimbabwe National Geospatial and Space Agency (ZINGSA) employed advanced geospatial mapping techniques to reveal the extent of these hazardous excavations. The results are alarming: a sprawling labyrinth of tunnels, undermining pillars essential for structural support, has been exposed. This underground network threatens not only the stability of the city’s foundations but also the safety of its residents.

“The mapping has shown us the severity of the situation. We are literally sitting on a ticking time bomb,” said a ZINGSA official, who wished to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the information. “Our findings indicate that these illegal activities are compromising the structural integrity of buildings and could lead to disastrous collapses.”

The illegal miners, driven by the soaring prices of gold, often target the support pillars within these underground passages. This reckless endangerment has already had dire consequences. In March of the previous year, a classroom block at Globe and Phoenix Primary School succumbed to these subterranean stresses, collapsing into a sinkhole created by nearby blasting activities. “It was a miracle that no lives were lost,” remarked a teacher from the school, her voice heavy with the memory of the near-tragedy.

The environmental impact is equally troubling. The proliferation of sinkholes and the vibrations from unchecked blasting are not just a threat to immediate safety but also pose long-term hazards to the city’s water supply and ecological balance.

Community leaders and activists are calling for urgent government intervention. “We need action now to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of our citizens,” stated a local community leader during a town hall meeting. “Kwekwe deserves better than to be undermined, both literally and figuratively, by these illegal operations.”

However, addressing this issue is complex. The korokozas are often locals driven to desperation by economic hardships, turning to illegal mining as a means of survival. “It’s a catch-22 situation,” explained an economic analyst. “While these miners are destroying the city, they are also part of our community, trying to make a living in a depressed economy.”

The government has pledged to crack down on illegal mining activities and is discussing measures to reinforce affected structures and monitor the regions most at risk. But for many residents of Kwekwe, these promises come too late. The damage done is a grim reminder of the consequences of neglecting environmental and structural stewardship in the pursuit of immediate economic gain.

As Kwekwe stands on precarious ground, the call for sustainable mining practices and strict enforcement of regulations has never been more urgent. The city’s future, along with the well-being of its inhabitants, depends on it.- Ziana