The Sunday News
“Fractures and contusions constituted the most frequently occurring injuries, with collapse of the mine pits and falls being the most frequent cause of accidents reported both by the hospital and media records. This study shows that though varied degrees of injuries occur among the miners, the potential for serious injuries is substantial. Measures to reduce the incidence of injuries and fatalities should include education and training on the use of safe working tools and means of creating a safe working environment.”
The above statement is taken from a research document done by Ghanaian academics, Kyeremateng-Amoah and Edith Clarke, which shows that artisanal and small-scale gold miners across the continent are confronted with numerous hazards often resulting in varying degrees of injuries and fatalities.
According to a local Mining Index, a total of 84 people died in 2020 due to mining accidents in the Midlands province alone, amid calls for improved workplace safety. The report further said in the country, most accidents take place in uninspected and unsafe mines where artisanal miners work without supervision as they search for gold.
In a statement to mark the 2021 International Health and Safety Day in May, Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Minerals Workers Union (ZDAMWU) general secretary Justice Chinhema said working conditions for mine workers were increasingly becoming deplorable.
“Since the beginning of the year, we have seen several accidents in small scale mines with over 10 workers losing lives and several injured. In big mines, fatal accidents have happened as well with five workers losing lives and some injured,” Chinhema said. Big mines have also not been spared in terms of related accidents.
Last week, seven workers died at Bucks Mine in Colleen Bawn, Matabeleland South province, after they were trapped underground last Saturday. The accident occurred after hoisting ropes bringing them up a shift snapped and plunged 240 metres. The bodies were only retrieved after three days.
Speaking at the scene of the accident, Mines and Mining Development Deputy Minister Polite Kambamura urged miners to adhere to safety standards in order to avoid similar accidents in future.
“It’s sad that we lost seven miners of this operation but we want to thank everyone who is here and has been making frantic efforts to rescue those who drowned underground,” said Deputy Minister Kambamura.
He extended his condolences to the families and co-workers of the deceased.
“We’re so saddened as Government and want to urge the communities around to adhere to all safety standards to make sure that such accidents don’t happen in future. Currently, the department of the chief Government mining engineer is going around doing safety awareness campaigns together with the Ministry of Environment to make sure that miners adhere to safety standards and a safe working environment,” said Deputy Minister Kambamura.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation Matabeleland South chapter chairman Mr Philemon Mukwili said the small-scale miners needed more education on the craft.
“We saw this accident as a challenge to us because we now understand that most small-scale miners lack knowledge of health and safety which is very important in our mining operations. We will be training our miners so that they understand the importance of safety in the mines. Most miners were not taking issues of health and safety seriously such that when we called for training, most miners were not coming. However, these trainings will be useful in reducing accidents in our mines,” said Mr Mukwili.
What is clear from the comments by stakeholders and Government is that there is need for training on health and safety in mines, and also some enforcement mechanisms have to be made to make sure that lives are not lost in cases that can be avoidable.