The search for illegal miners trapped underground in Battlefields near Kadoma ended on Thursday with the retrieval of the final two bodies, bringing to 28 the number of dead.
Eight people were rescued alive after water flooded shafts at the Cricket 3 Mine as the 36 miners dug for gold underground on February 12.
Local Government Minister July Moyo told cabinet on Thursday that the badly decomposed remains of the final two miners had been brought to the ground.
“This brings closure to the rescue efforts pertaining to the Battlefields Mine Disaster. Cabinet once again expresses its deepest condolences to the affected families and the artisanal mining fraternity in general,” acting Information Minister Sekai Nzenza told a post-cabinet briefing with journalists.
The accident in Battlefields, 175km west of Harare near the town of Kadoma, shined a light on the dangers facing illegal gold miners, who last year contributed a large part of Zimbabwe’s record 33 tonne bullion output.
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 can easily collapse in the rainy season when the ground is soft.
The pits are dotted around a clearing some 8km from the main dirt road. On the edges are shacks made of plastic which serve as accommodation for those digging for gold.
Ministers have promised law reforms to legalise the activities of the artisanal miners which they hope will lead to greater safety, while strengthening legislation to compel big mining companies to securely fill-up disused mine shafts.