Four illegal gold panners from Shurugwi who were affected by rockfalls at Wanderer Integration Claims on Wednesday last week are still trapped amid mounting fears that they are all dead by now.
The situation at Wanderer Integration is a time bomb with more than 1 000 illegal miners working in risky underground tunnels without regard for safety, said mining experts who spoke to The Mirror.
Shurugwi District Administrator Langton Mupeta confirmed the incident and said one body was finally retrieved but all hope is lost on the other three with experts recommending for the search be permanently abandoned.
Mupeta said officials from the Ministry of Mines arrived at the scene late because of transport problems. He also said that Unki Mine sent a team of rescuers to the scene soon after the incident.
Midlands provincial mining director, Mazemo said he was away and therefore did not have enough details on the incident to furnish The Mirror. Wanderer Integration is 7km outside Shurugwi town.
Chaderopa Chaderopa who is the co-ordinator of Wanderer Integration Project bemoaned chaos at the claims with untrained miners digging for gold in tunnels that stretch kilometres underground. He said hope is lost on finding the three missing miners and chances are that the case is going to be closed after the Unki rescue team left the site empty-handed.
Wanderer Integration Project is a Government empowerment project that saw four registered syndicates getting certificates to mine the claims owned by several mining companies including Falcon. These syndicates do professional mining but the same claims have since been invaded by illegal miners.
"There is a serious crisis here. There are four syndicates namely Pacific, Lulu 31, B and B and B and 4 registered to mine here. They all have about 220 workers but illegal miners numbering more than 1 000 have invaded the area and are living in makeshift shelters.
"They are involved in unsafe mining, crime rate is very high here and wanted criminals use this place to hide away from the Police. There is prostitution and a disaster looms because of the chaotic situation," said Chaderopa.
He said the registered syndicates have been trying to incorporate the illegal panners into the proper mining without success.