- Fifteen miners were rescued alive from a collapsed shaft at a Metallon Corporation-owned mine in Zimbabwe.
- Metallon Corporation regained control of the mine last year after a corporate rescue.
- Zama zamas and rudimentary mining activities linked to the politically connected are blamed for environmental destruction.
South African mining magnate Mzi Khumalo’s Metallon Corporation this week said it was moving to formalise operations at its Redwing Mine in Zimbabwe, where 15 suspected “zama zamas” were rescued from a collapsed shaft.
But Zimbabwe’s government said the trapped miners were employees of Metallon Gold, and were not zama zamas.
“For the avoidance of doubt and contrary to some unsubstantiated reports circulating on social media platforms, the trapped miners are employees of Metallon Gold,” said acting Local Government Minister July Moyo.
Redwing Mine, situated in the Penhalonga area of Manicaland province, is owned by United Kingdom-registered King’s Daughter Mining Company Limited, which holds 100% of the firm’s shareholding. That is a 100%-owned subsidiary of Metallon Corporation.
In 2020, the mine was put under corporate rescue by Zimbabwe’s High Court after creditors and the workers’ union successfully sued it for failure to pay salaries and contractual agreements amounting to at least R114 million.
What followed was chaos that involved Prime Royal Mining (PRM), a local firm that roped in more than a thousand artisanal miners in Zimbabwe.
During that period, the ruling party Zanu PF’s legislator for Mabvuku-Tafara, Scott Sakupwanya, through his Better Brands, “annexed” part of the mine and started his operation.
According to civil society groups, since 2020, there have been more than a hundred deaths at the mine.
In January last year alone, 26 fatalities were recorded there.
Last year, the mine was removed from corporate rescue but remained in the hands of illegal miners using rudimentary methods.
Last week’s accident at the mine that left 15 artisanal miners trapped was the latest in a series of events casting a bad light on the country’s mining sector.
While the 15 came out alive after a rescue mission that kept Mines Minister Soda Zhemu on his toes, Metallon Corporation said it was going to revive the mine formally.
The mine said in a statement:
The Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG), the National Mine Workers’ Union of Zimbabwe (NMWUZ), and the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers’ Union (ZDAMWU) in a joint statement demanded that the government investigate the mine disaster.
They argued that, from their preliminary investigations, “this was not a properly registered mine. It was operating without a mine manager as stipulated in Statutory Instrument 109 of 1990 Mining (Management and Safety) Regulations”.
They added that the mine was a death trap.
“All safety procedures were not being followed. Underground pillars had been knocked down, thereby rendering the mine a death trap. The removal of pillars must have been observed by the inspectors from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development if they were doing their work properly,” the organisations said.
They also accused the government of failing or enabling the zama zamas who enjoy political connectivity.
“We note with deep concern the prevalence of hundreds of so-called sponsors operating underground shafts at Redwing. These sponsors know nothing about mining. They use their financial muscle and political connections to bet on other people’s lives,” they said.
Operations have since been stopped at the mine, according to local media reports.