Miners work to reach about 40 artisanal gold miners who are feared dead after rains flooded the mines while they were underground on the outskirts of Kadoma town about 200 kilometres west of Harare, Zimbabwe, Friday, Feb, 15, 2019. Artisanal miners continued to lead efforts to rescue their colleagues using heavy duty pumps and machinery to reach where the miners are thought to be. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

HARARE ‑ President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday declared a state of disaster following the flooding of mine shafts near Kwekwe, a city about 200km south of the capital, which left more than 60 illegal miners trapped and feared dead.

The announcement was made by local government, public works and national housing minister July Moyo.

“Following the flooding of mineshafts ...where an estimated 60 to 70 artisanal miners are trapped, President Mnangagwa has declared a state of disaster in terms of section 27(1) of the Civil Protection Act,” he said in a statement.

Cricket Mines and Jongwe Mining Co-operative underground tunnels flooded after a nearby dam wall collapsed upstream on Monday.

Moyo said frantic efforts were being made to retrieve the bodies of the victims and expressed gratitude to mining companies that had availed equipment and human resources to assist the Civil Protection Unit. 

Government appealed for donations, saying an estimated US$200 000 was needed to pump the water out of the shafts, feed the bereaved families and teams on the ground and for the transportation and burial of victims.  

“Given the magnitude of this disaster, we kindly appeal to individuals, development partners and the corporate world for assistance in cash and kind,” Moyo said.

No bodies have been retrieved so far.  Moyo said it would take longer to retrieve those trapped at Cricket 3 Mine because of the depth of the shafts.

Cricket 3 Mine is owned by RioZim, but it was no longer using the mine.

Civil Protection Unit director Nathan Nkomo said victims’ families would receive $1 000, which would go towards meeting burial costs, plus one blanket to each victim, among other forms of assistance.

Zimbabwe has been making efforts to formalise artisanal mining under the ease of doing business narrative being spearheaded by Mnangagwa.

African News Agency (ANA)