HARARE (Reuters) – Two illegal Zimbabwean miners died and another was injured after the gold mine they were working in collapsed, the disaster management agency said on Thursday, as rescuers searched for more miners.
Fortune Mupungu, the Civil Protection Unit (CPU) chairman for Kwekwe district, 200 km south-west of the capital Harare, said rescuers had found two bodies.
“The rescue operation has been going on and we are yet to identify any more miners. These are illegal miners who operate at night, so we cannot ascertain how many they were,” Mupungu told Reuters.
The state-owned Herald newspaper reported that 20 others were trapped inside the mine but Mupungu could not confirm this.
The accident comes a year after at least 22 miners died near Kwekwe, which highlighted the risks run by illegal gold miners in Zimbabwe.
In the latest accident, the miners were illegally mining at Globe and Phoenix gold mine. They entered the shaft on Wednesday night but did not emerge as expected on Thursday morning, the Herald said.
Kwekwe and the areas are rich in gold deposits and popular with artisanal miners, known locally as “Makorokoza” or hustlers, who work in unsafe shafts using picks and shovels and generator-powered water pumps.
In the past month police have arrested hundreds of illegal miners involved in violent turf wars for mining claims.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; editing by David Evans