Tafadzwa Chibukwa, Chronicle Reporter
A GOLD panner died after an illegal mine shaft in Bulawayo’s Woodville Park collapsed on him while he was mining gold.
The shaft reportedly collapsed on Saturday evening after a dynamite explosion burying Gray Moyo (35) of Killarney suburb in the process.
Last month, a gold panner died and four others escaped unhurt after a Bulawayo City Council quarry pit in Parklands suburb collapsed on them while they were illegally mining gold. The incident occurred at the corner of Cecil Drive and Coghlan Avenue. The gold panners discovered that the gravel from the quarry pit that was being used to rehabilitate a section of Cecil Drive had gold hence they were now searching for gold in the pit.
When a Chronicle news crew arrived at the scene yesterday at around 11AM, a Bulawayo Fire Brigade team was digging up the body of the trapped gold panner.
Gold panners and Woodville Park residents were at the scene watching police officers conducting investigations. The mangled body with a bloodied face of Moyo was carried out of the mine shaft by the Fire Brigade team and taken away from the scene by police.
Residents suspected that the mine shaft might have collapsed yesterday at around 8PM after the explosion.
Some said they were informed that the mine shaft had collapsed in the evening but people got to know of the incident in the morning.
Others were brought to attention by the sight of Fire Brigade cars, which were moving past their houses and headed to the mine shaft.
Mr Malachi Masotsha, a resident of Woodville Park said he rushed to the site as soon as he received word of the incident.
“On Saturday evening we heard a loud explosion and ignored it since these explosions have been rampant due to the operation of these illegal miners. I was then told yesterday morning that the mine had collapsed and I also informed other residents so that we could come and see what was going on,” said Mr Masotsha.
He said if the police had acted on the reports that had been made by residents to stop the illegal mining in their suburb, the incident would not have occurred.
“These illegal miners have been operating for almost a year now and several reports have been made at Queenspark Police Station but they have been ignored. If the police had reacted as soon as reports were made and closed down the mine shaft, residents would not be gathered today and a family would not have lost a member,” said Mr Masotsha.
Residents complained that the illegal miners had presented an unsafe environment in the suburb. Some said the illegal miners were vandalising property in the suburb and the shockwaves that came with dynamite explosions affected their boreholes.
Woodville Park residents’ chairman, Mr Nhlanhla Ndlovu, appealed to authorities to act upon the incident that had taken place and close down the mine shaft.
He said as residents they had not come up with solutions to their challenge as they were scared of being attacked by the illegal miners.
Bulawayo acting Chief Fire Officer, Mr Linos Phiri, said the Fire Brigade received a call yesterday morning informing them that a mine shaft had collapsed in the suburb and they responded.
“Illegal gold panning is difficult to eradicate as people continue to risk their lives and engage in the illegal scheme,” he said. It should be discouraged, especially during the rainy season since the ground becomes weak and vulnerable to collapse like in this case.” [email protected]