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30.11.2020 Zimbabwe

First body pulled from Zimbabwe gold mine disaster

By AFP
Rescue workers have been draining water from the mine shaft so that they can access trapped miners.  By Jekesai NJIKIZANA (AFP)
LISTEN NOV 30, 2020
Rescue workers have been draining water from the mine shaft so that they can access trapped miners. By Jekesai NJIKIZANA (AFP)

Rescuers on Monday retrieved one body from a disused Zimbabwe gold mine where dozens of informal miners were feared trapped inside since a shaft collapsed last week, officials said.

Around 40 people are thought to be stuck underground in the town of Bindura, around 70 kilometres (43 miles) northeast of the capital Harare, where the disaster occurred five days ago.

Six miners were rescued and taken to hospital within hours, after which rescue efforts were hampered by heavy rain and ground water flooding.

Rescuers and volunteers have spent days pumping water out of the flooded shaft, and pulled a first body out of the rubble on Monday.

"One male body ...has been retrieved this afternoon from the tunnel," tweeted government spokesman Nick Mangwana.

"The body was beneath the rubble which was underneath the water in the collapsed tunnel."

Zimbabwe Miners Federation's deputy head Christine Munyoro, also confirmed the recovery of the body.

Munyoro reported the death of another miner who had volunteered to help the rescuers and drowned after a stone knocked him into the flooded tunnel over the weekend.

Scores of miners had been working inside the disused Ran Gold Mine when the ground caved in.

Although the site was officially closed 10 years ago, some workers remained behind to extract residual gold along with other unemployed people who came to work there.

Mining is a major source of foreign currency for Zimbabwe, where gold alone accounts for 60 percent of exports and employs nearly 10 percent of the population.

The bulk of gold is extracted by artisanal and small-scale miners, who were responsible for 63 percent of the recorded production last year, according to official statistics.

Those miners often operate illegally to avoid selling their bullion to the state-owned buyer, Fidelity Printers and Refiners, as they are paid only 55 percent in foreign currency.

The remaining 45 percent is paid in Zimbabwean dollars, which is notoriously weak and volatile.

Accidents are relatively common in decommissioned mines, particularly when the ground is loosened by downpours.

Munyoro said rain started again on Monday afternoon, shortly after the first body was retrieved, forcing rescuers to pause for the day.

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