Oliver Kazunga/Richard Muponde, Business Reporters
BLANKET Mine in Matabeleland South has suspended operations at its Eroica ore body section following a fatal accident that claimed one of its workers on Friday.
The miner, Dumisani Ndlovu (33) plunged for about 30 metres to his death in a shaft while he was mining underground and his body was allegedly buried in gold ore for about four hours. A close source said the deceased was reportedly not putting on safety belts when he slipped and plunged to his death while drilling in the company of a workmate at around 1PM.
“When he slipped he was buried by gold ore, which was beneath and it took about four hours for his body to be recovered. They had to suck out the ore from the mine so that they locate his body. The operation started around 1PM and ended at about 5PM when the body was found,” he said.
AIM-listed Caledonia Mining Corporation, which owns the Gwanda-based gold, said until such a time as the outcome of an inquiry by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development inspectorate department has been reached, no further details could be availed about the incident.
“Until such a time as the outcome of this enquiry has been reached, no further details can be released. Blanket management has suspended mining activities in the specific mining area, being the Eroica ore body, which contributed 10 percent of production in the first quarter of 2017, pending a full risk assessment and in-loco investigation,” said the mining group.
Matabeleland South police spokesperson, Inspector Philisani Ndebele yesterday confirmed Ndlovu’s death.
“Yes I confirm that we received a report of a sudden death at Blanket Mine, which occurred on 12 May at around 1PM. The deceased, Dumisani Ndlovu (33) was underground a shaft where he was working when he slipped and plunged to his death at a depth of 30 metres. The incident was reported to the police and they attended the scene together with a mining inspector. Ndlovu’s body was taken to Gwanda Provincial Hospital for post-mortem. As we speak investigations are still underway to establish the cause of the accident,” said Inspector Ndebele.
Caledonia chief executive officer Mr Steve Curtis said the accident was a major setback in their continued efforts to improve safety.
“This is a serious setback in our efforts to continuously improve safety at Blanket Mine. The previous fatality was in April 2015. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family, colleagues and friends of the deceased,” he said.
Blanket Mine is one of Zimbabwe’s best performing gold producers. In first quarter ended March 31, 2017 Blanket produced 12 794 ounces of gold up from 10 822oz during the comparable period last year. In the period under review, the gold produced by the Gwanda-based mine represents an 18 percent year-on-year increase. Last year, Blanket Mine produced 50 351oz, which was the highest ever at the mine.
Meanwhile, production targets at Blanket Mine for this year have been revised downwards from 60 000oz of gold to between 52 000oz and 57 000oz.
The downward review was because Blanket Mine has not been able to transport the volume of material that is necessary to achieve the target of 60 000oz in 2017 despite the improvements in underground tramming capacity that were completed in June 2016.
Caledonia has also hinted that the revised production targets have no effect on Blanket’s longer term production guidance of an estimated 80 000oz by 2021 as well as the mine’s ability to generate sufficient funds to finance the completion of the Central Shaft project.
In March, the mining group announced that it would this year allocate an additional $18 million into Blanket Mine as part of the drive to boost gold output.
Between 2015 and last year, the mining corporation invested $36 million into the Gwanda mine.