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Exactly a week following the tragedy, a decomposing body of an unidentified miner was Friday retrieved from a collapsed shaft at Bayhorse Mine, Chakari, Chegutu district, where nine employees have so far been confirmed dead.
Also recovered were a decapitated head and an arm which are part of an earlier retrieved torso.
Head of the search and rescue operation, Hussein Phiri said the task was being made difficult due to the decomposing state of bodies as well as the humid underground conditions.
“We are meeting the serious challenge of decomposing bodies so we are taking piece by piece getting them out… also the ground is soft that we have had to temporarily abandon the mission.
“Most, if not all, missing miners are now believed dead, what we are targeting to do is get their remains out for decent burials,” said Phiri.
Addressing journalists at Bayhorse Mine Friday, War Veterans Minister, Christopher Mutsvangwa, who is the province’s highest-ranking Zanu PF official, confirmed the latest development.
“This is needless waste of life to have young people die at such a young age because of safety issues in an industry which is so lucrative.
“There is no need for the agony, the tragedy being faced by all these families, women, mothers, daughters, sons and brothers of these victims who are now losing hope, just hoping bodies can be retrieved so there can be decent burials of loved ones. This needs not be the case in modern Zimbabwe.
“There is still an ongoing search of seven others. There is a courageous team and today they managed to retrieve a body which was dismembered because of the accident underground,” he said.
The number of fatalities is expected to rise as now the number of unaccounted for persons has risen from four to seven.
At least 22 of the estimated 39 trapped miners either escaped or were rescued a day after the accident which occurred in the kilometre-long tunnel.
Mutsvangwa said despite making significant contributions to the national economy, lax safety standards in artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector was worrisome.
“What is of particular attention is the fact that the industry has grown so rapidly without the matching safety standards, which are required that when a miner goes down and leaves his family, his wife can cook dinner knowing that he will be back in the evening…
“The small and medium enterprise (SME) gold sector is young, it was legalised in 2016 and it has made dramatic improvement in the national economy of Zimbabwe.
“Today, gold outstrips tobacco as a foreign currency earner and 66% gold produced in Zimbabwe is being mined by small scale miners, some of whom are the victims we are mourning here,” said the Zanu Politburo member.
Mutsvangwa described the deceased miners as “economic heroes.”
“These are actually the heroes of our economy. If they had not been producing gold our central bank would not have had the means to support the Zimbabwean dollar, which we are now having back…
“…we will make sure as government that this matter of safety of the SME gold sector is addressed head-on and provide a safe environment for these heroes of the economy of Zimbabwe.
“Gold is the saviour of Zimbabwe and young people here are real economic heroes of this country and need to give them a safe environment deserving their role as real economic heroes,” said Mutsvangwa.
Last week, Minister of Mines, Soda Zhemu, made shocking revelations that the tragedy at Bayhorse Mine was a result of haphazard extraction methods which were supervised by unqualified personnel.
Zhemu blamed the mine authorities, led by Tafadzwa Sigauke, of conducting unsustainable mining techniques and wilfully disregarding enabling laws.
He acknowledged there were conflicting figures of fatalities, missing persons and survivors.
Some witnesses put the initial figure of trapped miners at between 40 and 44, but it was later revised to 34 then 39.
Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) national spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed identities of some of the retrieved deceased miners as Godfrey Baro (26) of Mariyapera Compound, Chegutu, Tawanda Gavaza (28) of Musengezi Resettlement, Chegutu, and Lloyd Mashavave (40) of Waverly in Kadoma and Forbes Murombedzi (24) of Village 1, Musengezi, Zvimba. *NewZW*