ONE person is reported to have been killed Thursday following an explosion at Blanket gold mine near Gwanda amid fears other miners may still be trapped underground.
Several other workers were injured in the blast and rushed to Mater-Dei Hospital in Bulawayo.
Management at the mine, owned by Canada-based junior resource group Caledonia Mining Corporation, have not commented on the blast but workers blamed poor safety procedures for the explosion.
Said one employee: “Miners were working on a raised platform drilling holes for explosives on a stone wall, at about 1am when an explosive that had not exploded during blasting then went off.
“The miners plunged more than 12 metres down the pit and, instead of calling emergency rescue teams as usual, management assembled a team of workers and ordered them to retrieve their colleagues.
“One of them was already dead and we suspect the manager did not call rescuers to avoid bad publicity about the mine and we are not sure how many people were in the mine because gold panners often illegally gain entry to poach gold.”
Police said they had launched their own investigations.
Caledonia retains a 49 percent interest in the mine after complying with the country’s empowerment legislation which compels foreign companies to transfer majority control of their local operations to Zimbabweans.
Financial results released this week showed that second quarter was gold production reached 11,588 ounces, up from 10,472 ounces in the preceding quarter and ahead of the planned target of 10,000 ounces.
Output for the third quarter was said to have started well, with production in July clocking in at around 4,480 ounces, some 35% higher than the planned monthly target of 3,300 ounces.
Management said it was confident Blanket was on course to produce around 44,000 ounces in 2013, which is 10% higher than the previous guidance of 40,000 ounces.
Said chief executive Stefan Hayden: “The second quarter of 2013 presented significant challenges as the gold price suffered an unprecedented fall in April 2013.
“In response to the lower gold price, Caledonia, working with Blanket management, introduced measures to increase mine production from approximately 1,030 tpd which was achieved in the first quarter of 2013, to approximately 1,125 tpd in the second quarter of 2013.Advertisement
“It is hoped that the increased production and continued tight cost control will mitigate somewhat the adverse effect of the lower gold price on the Group’s profitability.
“Over half of Blanket’s costs are fixed. If we are able as planned to increase production moving forward, our average cost per ounce of gold produced may be able to be reduced somewhat.”