By Anna Chibamu
MINES Minister Winston Chitando says mining accidents could be reduced if authorities conducted mining inspections at least four times a year.
Giving oral evidence on the state of mines in the country and progress on the envisaged US$12 billion economy by 2023 Wednesday, Chitando told the Mines Committee that his ministry lacked resources to fully carry out operations such as inspections due inadequate financial and human resources.
Chitando was responding to concerns raised by the committee over recent mine accidents that have claimed dozens of lives countrywide with some victims yet to be retrieved from under the ground.
The minister also highlighted that the orderly mining principle was crucial to reducing accidents in mining areas that included both illegal and legal mining concessions.
“It is quite correct and the concern is valid. Accidents have taken place where people are undertaking legal and other illegal concessions,” said Chitando.
“As a general thrust to contain accidents, there is a need to increase the visibility of the ministry in inspections. We do have provincial offices. Inspectors are crucial as they are supposed to interface with miners.
“We need to come up with immediate short term and long-term interventions to resolve the accidents’ crisis.
“As a ministry, we need another meeting where we can come up with an immediate action plan as well as the medium term through a symposium in January next where a number of factors have been raised. We are going to come up with an updated template on this early next year.”
Due to high increase concessions in several mining areas over the last few years, the minister stated that there have not been any corresponding increase in human resources and enablers have also been not corresponding with the increase in the mining concessions that curtailed the effectiveness of mining operations in the sector.
“In September, I presented a joint paper with the Environment ministry presented to Cabinet regarding orderly mining principle where provisions are required to be adhered to as stipulated by the law.
“It was agreed and it was now up to treasury to avail resources. Its purpose is to make sure the orderly mining principle is adhered to for people to operate safely preserving the environment,” added Chitando.
According to the minister, as of January 2021, the ministry will hold a symposium to get ideas from different stakeholders on how to go about the issues affecting the mining sector.
However, Committee chairperson, Edmond Mkaratigwa said bodies of trapped miners still needed to be retrieved as soon as possible.
“This is incompetence on the part of government. It is unacceptable.
“We as a Parliament want those bodies out. Your engineers in the ministry have been intimidating MPs, relatives of those trapped and everyone else trying to help in retrieving the bodies. There is lack of compassion on part of your office,” said Mkaratigwa.
Magwegwe MP Anele Ndebele urged the minister to seek help from South Africa which he said had expertise in such operations.