Stand­off as 300 il­le­gal min­ers refuse to leave Bubi gold mine shaft

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Front Page - Whins­ley Masara

MORE than 300 gold pan­ners have been trapped in a 150 me­tre deep mine shaft at Dur­ban Gold Mine in Bubi District since Mon­day.

Yes­ter­day, the il­le­gal min­ers were in­volved in a stand­off with of­fi­cials from Du­ra­tion Gold which owns the mine as they were re­fus­ing to come out of the shaft, fear­ing ar­rest. The mine own­ers had brought res­cue teams. The il­le­gal min­ers are said to have in­vaded the mine last week af­ter al­legedly tam­per­ing with the lo­cal elec­tric­ity sys­tem.

The il­le­gal min­ers were each pay­ing an un­named busi­ness­man $70 to go down into the shaft us­ing his lad­der.

Some of the il­le­gal min­ers said they each paid $500 to se­cu­rity guards to be al­lowed to ex­tract gold ore for three days.

“Trou­ble started when the po­lice were called and the busi­ness­man with­drew his lad­der. Peo­ple have been trapped with­out food in the shafts since Mon­day,” said an il­le­gal miner who de­clined to be named.

“About 130 of an ini­tial group of more than 300 peo­ple have come out us­ing the mine’s lift. The oth­ers are hid­ing in the tun­nels fear­ing ar­rest.”

More than 50 armed po­lice of­fi­cers ar­rived at the mine at around 1 PM to deal with the pan­ners. A group of 13 ar­ti­sanal min­ers were en­gaged to go down into the shaft to con­vince their coun­ter­parts to come out.

“Most of them have vowed not to come out. They are say­ing they would rather die in there than to come out and face ar­rest,” said an of­fi­cial.

Dur­ban Mine act­ing man­ager, Mr Onias Shanyu­rai said po­lice had been en­gaged to forcibly re­move the min­ers.

“We faced a power out­age for over 24 hours last week. The group flooded the mine through il­le­gal points which they had cre­ated. The rapid and heavy det­o­na­tion of ex­plo­sives in the shafts prompted me to en­gage the po­lice,” he said.

Mr Shanyu­rai said the mine which had shut down in De­cem­ber 2015, was gear­ing to re-open be­fore the end of the month.

“We’ve al­ways had run­ning bat­tles with il­le­gal min­ers but their num­ber is alarm­ing this time around. We got a tip off that there were more than 300 of them and we or­gan­ised some guys to go down there and ad­vise them to leave be­fore things turned nasty.

“Only 130 of them com­plied while the rest re­mained down there. Last week, we are told they would come out of the shaft at night to get food from their bosses and de­liver ore that they would have mined,” he said.

The act­ing mine man­ager said the il­le­gal min­ers were in­dis­crim­i­nately blast­ing in the mine, thereby threat­en­ing its struc­tural in­tegrity.

“Po­lice ar­rived on Mon­day but still they wouldn’t come out. Later dur­ing the night, the owner of the lad­der sneaked to the shaft and pulled it out, leav­ing the pan­ners trapped.

“We’ve en­gaged the lo­cal pan­ners to ne­go­ti­ate with their fel­low mates,” he said.

When The Chron­i­cle ar­rived at the mine, they found a group of po­lice of­fi­cers from dif­fer­ent districts in the prov­ince and Bubi Civil Pro­tec­tion Unit al­ready wait­ing for the pub­lic or­der team to ar­rive.

Us­ing a “boat” at Dou­ble Bank shaft, the ne­go­ti­at­ing team went down at around 2 PM.

They re­turned say­ing some of the il­le­gal min­ers were hos­tile and tried to at­tack them with ma­chetes.

At around 4 PM one of the il­le­gal min­ers gath­ered courage and came out of the shaft.

Po­lice and the civil pro­tec­tion unit con­vinced the pan­ner, only iden­ti­fied as Ma­posa from Murewa, to re­turn and as­sure his pals that it was safe.

Later, some il­le­gal min­ers be­gan trick­ling out car­ry­ing their be­long­ings, in­clud­ing sacks of ore.

As soon as they sur­faced, po­lice rushed to frisk them, tak­ing ev­ery­thing they had in­clud­ing their tools be­fore dis­miss­ing them.

By the time The Chron­i­cle left at around 5 PM, only nine men had sur­ren­dered them­selves.

Bubi act­ing district ad­min­is­tra­tor, Mr Tapiwa Zivovoyi said it was dan­ger­ous for such a big num­ber of peo­ple to be down the shaft for so long.

“As the civil pro­tec­tion unit, we quickly re­acted to the po­lice’s call af­ter they had sin­gle hand­edly failed to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion. We feared for th­ese peo­ple’s health as there are no toi­lets down there, hunger, vi­o­lence, the heavy det­o­na­tion of ex­plo­sives among other things.

“We’ve agreed there will be no ar­rests. When they come out they sim­ply sur­ren­der their tools and all the ore, then re­turn to their homes,” he said.

A ma­jor­ity of the amako­rokoza begged the DA to or­gan­ise trans­port for them to re­turn to their homes as they were pen­ni­less.— @win­nie_­masara

Some of the res­cued il­le­gal min­ers who were trapped at Dur­ban Mine carry ore out of the shaft in Bubi District yes­ter­day. (Pic­ture by Eliah Saushoma)

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