BATTLEFIELDS, ZIMBABWE (FEBRUARY 16, 2019) (REUTERS – Zimbabwean rescuers on Saturday (February 16) pulled the bodies of at least 22 illegal gold miners out of shafts west of Harare that were flooded earlier in the week, and rescued eight more alive.
Looking dazed and covered in mud, the miners were whisked away by officials past cheering crowds.
Anxious relatives and other miners have camped out at the mining site as they wait for news of their loved ones and colleagues, some expressing frustration at the lack of information they are getting.
The accident involving about 70 miners in Battlefields, 175 km (109 miles) west of the capital, happened on Tuesday (February 12) night and has shone a light on the risks run by illegal gold miners, who last year contributed a large part of Zimbabwe’s record 33-ton bullion output.
The government has declared the incident a disaster.
Battlefields and surrounding areas are rich in gold deposits and popular with artisanal miners, known locally as “Makorokoza” or hustlers, who use picks and shovels and generator-powered water pumps. The makeshift shafts and tunnels, dotted around a clearing some 8 km from the main dirt road, can easily collapse in the rainy season when the ground is soft.