Flash Floods in Zimbabwe Fill up Disused Gold Mines
Last Tuesday, Feb.12, flash floods in the town of Kadoma, 125 miles southwest of the capital Harare, filled up two disused gold-mine shafts, trapping between 23-60 people inside. Wilson Gwatiringa, a spokesman for the mining company that owns one of the mines, RioZim, told AFP that “we heard from their colleagues that at least 23 people are trapped in the mine shaft which was flooded by water from a dam wall which burst due to heavy rains on Tuesday night.”
The mine, owned by RioZim, like the other privately owned mine, was apparently no longer in operation. The company says that the miners illegally entered the mine to search for gold. Fortunate Muzulu, the district administrator, and police said that the illegal miners snuck into the shafts at night to avoid detection from the owners or the police. A large portion of Zimbabwe’s gold output is from illegal mining.
Zimbabwe has a large unemployment rate, so many of its citizens have now resorted to illegal mining for an income, which has led the artisanal miners to operate with virtually no regulation and safety standards.It is common to see large groups of people with picks, shovels, and other equipment.
So far, rescuers have managed to pull out nine miners, all of whom are under the age of 24 years-old. Due to the fact that the Zimbabwe government lacks the heavy machinery, experts, and money to effectively fight this crisis, the rescue efforts have been headed by fellow miners. They have been pumping out water with small, diesel-powered water pumps donated by small-scale miners with operations nearby.
Zimbabwe is currently in the middle of a terrible economic crisis, the worst in decades. Experts have said that in reality prices have increased three-fold despite official statistics saying that annual inflation shot up to 56 percent from 42 percent in December 2018. The government tried to appeal for $200,000 for the rescue effort. The President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has declared a “state of disaster.”
While nine miners have been saved, around 25 bodies have been found dead. At this point, many have lost hope for the return of loved ones as rescue efforts continue. Those who have survived reported that they found higher ground and waited to be rescued in water up to their necks.