THE government is working on modalities that could see several mines being shut down and mining activities halted if they are deemed to be unsafe and illegal in a raft of measures intended to contain fatalities.
Stiffer penalties are also expected to be imposed on people found conducting mining activities at unsafe and illegal mines.
Zimbabwe recorded 237 mining-related deaths from 212 accidents last year, an increase from 139 fatalities recorded in 2022 from 121 accidents.
Last month, 15 miners were trapped for four days when a shaft collapsed at the Redwing gold mine in Penhalonga.
In the same month, two artisanal miners died as a result of a mineshaft collapse at Master Cecil Mine in Umguza district, Matabeleland North province.
Government has, however, decided to act on the accidents, with the ministries of Mines and Mining Development, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage and Environment, Climate and Wildlife leading the fight against unsafe and illegal mining activities.
Mines and Mining Development deputy minister Polite Kambamura announced the new measures during a parliamentary question-and-answer session, following a joint brainstorming meeting.
“We had a meeting, our ministry — Mines and Mining Development — the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Environment, to brainstorm on ways to implement safer mining standards and also stop illegal mining, considering the havoc that the illegal miners are causing to the environment,” he said.
“We came up with resolutions, chief among them was our combined teams which come from environment, through EMA [Environmental Management Agency] and Home Affairs, through the police, to go around and check on compliance.”
Kambamura said the teams would be checking on compliance in terms of registration and safer mining standards.
He said perpetrators would be prosecuted and stiffer penalties would be imposed to send the right message to the people.
“We also deliberated on coming up with a statutory instrument, which empowers local communities to report any unsafe mining standards in their area and wherever they suspect there could be illegal mining or unregistered mining taking place,” he said.
The deputy minister said the ministry’s inspectorate teams would be going around the mines to check on compliance to the provisions of the mining and management safety regulations.
The regulations proscribes miners from entering disused mines while promoting safe and sustainable mining activities.
“The Ministry of Mines is coming up with a policy whereby all miners will have to submit a mine closure plan so that the ministry can follow up to see that the closure plan has been implemented,” Kambamura said.
“It is true that communities have been losing livestock. So, the ministry considered that and it is taking that seriously to make sure that our miners mine sustainably.”
Artisanal miners and other mining companies have been accused of contributing to environmental degradation amid calls for sustainable mining practices that do not pose a threat to human life, livestock, aquatic life and the environment.
Mining accounts for about 12% of Zimbabwe’s gross domestic product while contributing about 60% of the country’s exports.