Artisanal miners claim over 100 colleagues dead in Battlefields mine disaster

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By Leopold Munhende

ARTISANAL miners at Silvermoon and Cricket Mines in Battlefields, Mashonaland West say over a hundred of their colleagues may have died in Tuesday’s tragic mine disaster, contrary to police estimates the death toll stood at 40.

Earlier reports by state controlled media Wednesday also put the toll at 23 while MPs in parliament Thursday spoke of 33 deaths.

In a statement Friday, Local Government Minister July Moyo put the number at between 60 and 70.

Speaking to during a combined Friday operation to dewater the flooded pits, Langton Dzimba, an artisanal miner who had not gone down the tunnel at the time, disputed police estimates saying there were about 39 artisanal miners in just one shaft alone.

“That number is too low because our own shaft let in 39 people. I can confirm that. However, we do not know how many others used alternative shafts.

“We do not even know the number of panners who got access as they usually get in to steal stones they would be thinking have gold deposits,” said Dzimba.

There are three shafts which go underground at Silvermoon Mine.

The miners who perished are said to have decided to take shelter from some light rains inside the pits, unaware of heavy rains in higher grounds of Mhondoro-Ngezi which caused flooding.

The overflow filled up the pits and further submerged the surface, causing what ranks as the worst mine disaster to hit the country in decades.

On Friday, government combined forces with mining firms ZimPlats and RioZim as well as some artisanal miners to try and dewater the pits with hopes of retrieving the bodies.

The tragedy has since been declared a national disaster.

Minister Moyo said Friday that at least US$200 000 was required to pump out the water, feed bereaved families and teams on the ground, transportation and burial of the victims in their respective districts.