Durban Mine stand-off ends
MANAGEMENT at Durban Mine in Bubi District has said the nine-day standoff that saw more than 300 amakorokoza being trapped underground has ended.
The mine manager, Mr Cleopas Sinyolo said on Thursday that the illegal miners had been trapped after an unnamed businessman, who they each paid $70, withdrew a ladder that they used to enter the more than 120 metre deep mine.
The businessman allegedly panicked when mine owners called the police after the illegal panners, most of them from Shurugwi, Chegutu, Kadoma, Mashava, Murehwa and Zvishavane, invaded the mine to extract gold.
“There had been a standoff since September 12 with scores of illegal miners who were refusing to come out of the mine shaft. We have managed to clear them all out, with the last four who had been found on the fourth and final level, having been arrested.
“The illegal miners had been trapped for more than 48 hours on September 12 when help finally arrived,” said Mr Sinyolo.
A majority of the panners initially refused to come out of the mine fearing arrest but by Tuesday last week, rescuers had convinced about 130 to come out. Those who remained reportedly threatened to attack rescuers with machetes, although they had been without food in the shafts for five days.
By Saturday September 17, mine workers had reportedly cleared amakorokoza from the first three levels of the mine and were engaging those in the fourth and final level.
Mr Sinyolo said: “Last week we managed to remove another 55 and on Monday, 17 more came out, with the last four having been arrested after they only came out on Tuesday.”
ZRP officer commanding Nkayi District, Chief Superintendent Never Tembo said he was not aware of the arrests but believed the situation had now been handled well. “The situation is now calm and you can actually prove it by attending to a stakeholders’ meeting that is being held today (Thursday) in Bubi and you could also visit the mine,” said Chief Supt Tembo.
The director of the mine, Mr John Moore, who was out of the country, is said to have shut down the mine last year.
According to officials at the mine, it has capacity to produce more than 18kg of gold every month.
Officials from the Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) also visited the mine to assess the situation and map the way forward.
In a telephone interview with The Chronicle on Thursday, ZMF spokesperson Mr Dosman Mangisi said his team was still on the ground, assessing the situation.
“On Saturday (September 17) sounds of explosives being blasted from underground could still be heard. The management and the police couldn’t go underground to arrest them because some of them had dangerous weapons such as machetes and they were threatening to harm anybody disturbing them. They later started coming out in small groups and some of them left with gold ore,” said Mr Mangisi.
When The Chronicle visited the mine on Thursday, there was no sign of activity and the blasting that was going on during earlier visits had stopped. The illegal miners were reportedly each paying mine workers $500 to be allowed to extract gold for three days.
A source from the community said the amakorokoza who had invaded Durban Mine were not locals. The source alleged the panners were actually working with the police, a claim which we could not independently verify with them (police).
“The way police have handled this matter makes us suspect that these miners are their people or they are working with them. Police officers were guarding the premises since last week, but how is it possible that they are surviving without food down there? It means they have food and it means the police are allowing them to get food. We don’t understand the reason for them being at the mine,” said the source.-@winnie_masara