The burial alive of at least 10 illegal gold miners at Premier Estate in Mutasa during a reclamation exercise could have been avoided if the contractor hired by the leaseholder had involved local community leadership and done more to avoid resistance from the illegal miners.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Mines and Mining Development visited the area on Sunday to establish facts that led to the incident and how the issue could possibly be addressed.
Committee chairperson and Shurugwi South legislator Edmond Mukaratigwa said the company contracted by a Belarusian investor that owns a special grant to operate in the area, did not involve the community leadership in notifying the miners.
“Our concern is that although mining activities are susceptible to accidents, our findings here are pointing to an accident as a result of negligence. What we see is that the miners were resistant as they went ahead into the shafts despite being told not to,” he said.
“There is also a gap between contractors and local community, especially in the way they circulated the information of the reclamation. They did not involve the local leadership who have a way of making sure that this type of communication reaches the people more efficiently when such reclamation activities are carried out to eliminate resistance.”
Only two bodies have been retrieved from one of the shafts while search efforts are ongoing in other shafts where the rest are thought to have been working.
Cde Mukaratigwa said the Mines and Minerals Bill as it is, speaks to safer mining activities in view of large scale miners, but neglects the small-scale and artisanal miners.
“This is why we have to actually consider that the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill that we are seized with at the moment should be able to examine and come up with a mechanism that will enable the formalisation of the small-scale miners, their training and compel their involvement in mining activities while at the same time observing proper safety procedures,” he said.
The committee said the company doing the reclamation would have to explain in Parliament why they did not have an Environmental Impact Assessment as well as a Social Impact Assessment.
They also noted that the company did not have a security system in place and were relying on police to provide security for their operations.
Acting officer commanding Mutare Rural District Superintendent Phillip Nyateka however said the duty of the police was to maintain peace and order and not to lead the company in doing their job.
He said police had done everything in their power to make sure that all three missing person’s reports they had received were thoroughly investigated.