Yoliswa Dube-Moyo, Mat South Bureau Chief
FAMILY members of seven miners from Bucks Mine in Colleen Bawn sit around small fires and watch helplessly as rescue workers go in and out of the shaft where their relatives have been trapped underground since Saturday.
The miners are feared dead after hoisting ropes bringing them up a shaft snapped and plunged down 240 metres.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the mine yesterday, rescue workers were still frantically trying to pump out water from the shaft in order to clear the way for them to reach the trapped miners.
Relatives, some of whom have been camping at the mine since midnight on Saturday, said the wait was killing them as it was not clear if the rescue efforts were progressing.
Ms Tapiwa Mukombwe, whose two sons were trapped underground was beside herself and could not contain her agony.
“My boys are trapped underground and I can’t begin to express how heartbroken I am. Both my sons are fathers and they have children at home. It’s painful having to be at such a place and not having any idea of exactly what’s happening underground,” said Ms Mukombwe.
She said she arrived at the scene of the accident on Sunday and progress in rescuing the miners has been slow.
“We’re just in the dark and we don’t know what we’re waiting for exactly. I’m so heartbroken as a parent, I don’t even know what to do with myself right now. Some relatives are at home in Gwanda while some are here after travelling all the way from Hwange and we’re just waiting to get an update,” said Ms Mukombwe.
Another relative of one of the miners, Mr Busani Mbangeni said his uncle who was trapped underground was the family beacon and breadwinner.
“We had hopes that he would raise us as his sons and see us become successful. He would go out of his way to look for money and assist the family with its needs. But as it stands, it looks like his hopes and dreams will not be realised. We’re heartbroken and it’s difficult to bring to words how we feel until we see him rescued from the mine, dead or alive,” said Mr Mbangeni.
He urged Government and other stakeholders to intervene and assist an 11-man team from neighbouring Vumbachikwe Mine which has been trying to rescue the miners.
“The rescue mission has taken too long and we’re starting to worry. We came from Gwanda around midnight and arrived here at 3AM on Sunday. When we got here, we were promised that the miners would be rescued within two to three hours but we’re still waiting almost 48 hours later. If possible, Government may intervene and help rescue our relatives who are trapped down there so that we may have peace.
“The fact that the trapped miners are still not visible to the rescue team is agonising, it’s difficult dealing with such heartache and worry,” said Mr Mbangeni, who was close to tears.
Mr Eliakim Dube whose son is among the trapped said the prolonged rescue mission was starting to take a toll on distressed relatives.
“We are asking Government to intervene because this has taken too long. As elders, we start to worry about the state of our children who are trapped in there because they’re exposed to water, they may start to decompose. It might happen that by the time they’re retrieved, it’ll be difficult to identify the bodies as they would be defaced as a result of the amount of time they have stayed underground,” said Mr Dube.
It was still unclear whether or not the rescue team were winning in their mission by around 3PM yesterday when their lunch had to be lowered to them underground.
Bucks Mine administrator Mr Philip Chiwaza said the mine has been under development since February this year.
“As part of developmental efforts, we had reached a stage where we were now putting guide routes. The mine manager deployed a crew to go underground and do the work and at around 3PM when the guys were coming out, the winding ropes to our cocopan which had seven people broke about 15 meters from the surface,” said Mr Chiwaza.
He said a crew from Vumbachikwe Mine had stepped in to assist to rescue the miners.
“We’ve repaired all the pipes that were broken and we’re in the process of pumping water from where the cocopan reached, that is level eight of the mine. Our biggest challenge is pumping out the water. As soon as we get the water out, we’ll be able to see exactly what happened on level eight,” said Mr Chiwaza.
He said relatives of the seven miners had been notified of the accident and six families had so far arrived at the scene.
On Sunday, an official from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development who preferred anonymity said: “ This incident can be linked to negligence because first of all seven men were not supposed to be in that cage at once because it has a low carrying capacity.
The rope was also weak to carry the cage. The guys were riding on a 1-ton size cocopan, ingorovane, up a vertical shaft slung on a wire rope which snapped towards the surface and they were plunged with the cocopan towards the shaft bottom. Shaft has water and mud.”
Matabeleland South provincial police spokesperson Inspector Loveness Mangena referred Chronicle to national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi who was not available to comment at the time of going to print. – @Yolisswa