By Daniel Chigundu
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) says the flooding at Cricket Mines and Silvermoon Mine in Battlefields occurred because the mines are located along a waterway.
The flooding occurred about 15 kilometres off the Harare-Bulawayo highway near Battlefields and claimed the lives of over 24 artisanal miners some of whom are still unaccounted for.
Speaking during a breakfast meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA), Phanuel Kudakwashe Mangisi who is an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) officer at EMA said the water was too much to the extent that it overpowered the diversions that had been put in place by the miners.
Below is the narration that Phanuel Kudakwashe Mangisi gave of what could have possibly happened:
The place where the mine is located is in a waterway and the small scale miners there tried to divert the watercourse so that at least they could mine within that watercourse so what happened is when water came it had to go through the normal channel and then try to go through the diverted one but then it was too much that it had to break those diversions that had been made so that the water won’t go through the tunnels.
So what it means is that it was the interference of the normal channel of the flow of water that also contributed to the over flooding, that area is like a receiving end, it’s like a flood-plain, the other sides are mountainous, it’s a hilly area, the other side it’s also a hill area so it was like a catchment that receives a lot of water from different areas.
Actually, the area where it was flooded it did not rain but it rained upwards, the guys said it rained for near 7 to 8 hours continuously so when the water came now, the people were not able to evacuate the area.
In this place, of course, they say it’s one of the first incidences that has happened since they have been mining there for a long period of time but I think maybe lessons we learn from such a disaster is yes we need to formalise the small scale miners and one of the things that we need to go and do or try to encourage our miners is also to respect the recommendations that are made by different institutions especially in terms of the mining environment.
Yes, we need the gold but we also need to remember that we also have the environment that is supposed to be used for the current generation as well as the future that are going to come, it’s a sad story that we have seen such pictures that were shown.
Yes the shafts were not protected which is a danger to even the guys who work there, some of them were at the tuck-shop were they drink and when you are in a state drunkenness you can also fall in those pits, the communities surrounding also have livestock that roam around so those pits if they are left like that they are a danger to human beings and wildlife and so we always say it’s supposed to be a team work, the artisanal miners and government departments, we need to work together so that at least we don’t repeat such a disaster and when recommendations are made that this is not a safe environment we need to try to adhere to the recommendations.
Some of the artisanal miners do not respect the infrastructures in the areas there are many cases where even our roads, our railway lines have been threatened by the activities of small scale miners, I will give a typical example of Kwekwe, there is Globe and Phoenix Primary School, the mining activities are very close if not underground the classrooms and at one point the Ministry of Mines said this Kwekwe town is suspended on mining tunnels that are underground.
“If you go closer in Kwekwe there is a mine called Primrose Mine there is a sewer trunk line that is there and that is always vandalised time and again even if council repairs it, it’s always vandalised by some of the illegal small scale miners, why they vandalise that is they want to use that water to process their ore and they say it’s very good in terms of processing of ore.
So even if council procure certain infrastructure to replace it, it is always vandalised so imagine it is an important trunk line that feeds different pump stations and if it’s broken down time and again what happens is all the raw sewage will flow out to the living communities so you can imagine what could be the dangers of the flowing of raw sewage into the communities. We are exposing the community even to waterborne diseases, so this is the extent of some of the activities that are done. At one point we heard that the children were learning at Globe and Phoenix they heard some sounds coming from underground classrooms and miners were working under the classroom block.
And you know it’s something else, if you go that school the walls of classroom blocks are cracking because of such activities and in many cases they also use dynamites to free the rocks so that they can mine well, some of the dynamites are also detonated close to infrastructure so what I am saying is yes we need to mine but we need to mine in a manner that is environmentally friendly and socially acceptable so this disaster that happened is an eye opener for all the players who are in this industry.
I know people always say its EMA, but it’s the same people who say when EMA goes out to do their job they always complain that EMA is always on our toe but when disaster comes they say where was EMA again so it’s supposed to be a collective effort, ministry of mines is also supposed to be there.
We (EMA) don’t know what happens underground, we know what happens on the surface, but what happens underground we are not experts, we are not engineers we don’t have somebody qualified to go there that is why when I went there myself I couldn’t go underground I don’t even know what it looks like, I am scared to go underground, so my word is the environment that we have is for us all, the resources we need to extract they are for us all we need to use them so that the nation benefits but we need to also have sound mining practices that ensure that the mining environment that we have is always conducive for the current and future generation.