The owners of Durban Mine in Bubi District were yesterday still battling to end a six-day standoff with scores of illegal miners who have been refusing to come out of the mine shaft since Monday last week.
More than 300 amakorokoza were last week trapped in the mine after an unnamed businessman, who they each paid $70, withdrew a ladder that they used to enter the more than 120 metre deep mine.
The unnamed businessman allegedly panicked when mine owners called the police after the illegal panners, most of them from Shurugwi, Chegutu, Kadoma, Mashava, Murehwa and Zvishavane, invaded the mine to extract gold.
The illegal miners had been trapped for more than 48 hours on Monday last week when help finally arrived.
A majority of them refused to come out of the mine fearing arrest.
By Friday last week, rescuers had convinced about 130 to come out. Those who remained reportedly threatened to attack rescuers with machetes, although they had been without food in the shafts for five days.
The director of the mine, Mr John Moore, who is out of the country, is said to have shut down the mine last year.
According to officials at the mine, it has capacity to produce more than 18kg of gold every month.
By yesterday, mine workers had reportedly cleared amakorokoza from the first three levels of the mine and were engaging those in the fourth and final level.
Officials from the Zimbabwe Mining Federation (ZMF) visited the mine on Saturday to assess the situation and map the way forward.
ZMF spokesperson Mr Dosman Mangisi said when they visited the mine, some of the 300 illegal miners were still underground.
“Although most of the miners had vacated the mine, we were told that some of the illegal miners were still underground. We could hear sounds of explosives being blasted from underground. The acting mine manager Mr Onias Shanyurai said the remaining miners were at the fourth level of the mine, which is more than 120 metres underground,” said Mr Mangisi.
Initially the management and the police couldn’t go underground to arrest them because some of them had dangerous weapons such as machetes and they were threatening to harm anybody disturbing them. They later started coming out in small groups and some of them left with gold ore,” said Mr Mangisi.
He said it was dangerous for the illegal miners to enter the mine by force to mine and drill without adhering to safety measures.
Mr Mangisi said more than 600 illegal miners were suspected to be extracting gold from the mine since December last year.
The illegal miners were reportedly each paying mine workers $500 to be allowed to extract gold for three days.
The mine workers have not been paid by their employer since the mine was shut down.
Mr Mangisi said ZMF would soon engage Mr Moore to discuss the challenges he is facing and map the way forward.
“We understand that Mr Moore supports small scale miners, including women in mining in the area and has given away more than 80 mining claims to the community.
“He has also built a stamp mill for the miners although there is no electricity. We’re yet to understand why the illegal miners have invaded his mine,” said Mr Mangisi.
He said the ZMF has resolved to identify all idle mining claims and negotiate with the owners to tribute them to communities and local mining associations.
“We want gold in the country. Tributing the mining claims will help us regulate them, use appropriate technology and reduce illegal gold panning and smuggling of gold. The gold that is mined at such mines is not taken to Fidelity and the money can’t even be accounted for.
“If we ignore such activities, we’re letting down the economy. That’s where our future lies. The money should be channelled to the economy,” said Mr Mangisi.
The Secretary for Bubi small scale miners, Mr Benjamin Ndlovu, confirmed that they had received mining claims from the businessman.
He added that the miners who had invaded Durban mine were not local. “The local miners know how Mr Moore has supported the local community and they wouldn’t invade his mine. These miners are not from here in Bubi,” said Mr Ndlovu.