At least two miners have died, two more have been seriously injured, and around 20 more are thought to be missing following the collapse of a shaft a gold mine in Midlands Province, Zimbabwe, on Wednesday 5 January 2020. The incident happened at the Globe and Phoenix Mine at Kwekwe, which was closed down in 2007 by the Ministry of Mines and the Environmental Management Authority, following a series of safety problems, but which is still being worked informally by local artisanal miners. The miners are reported to have been working a 'night shift' (whether this means a formal shift pattern was being used or simply that the work was being carried out at night to avoid detection by the authorities is unclear), with the alarm being raised after the men failed to return to the surface. The missing men are thought to be trapped within a shaft which has been blocked by the collapse, with rescue workers trying to find an alternative route to their location. In incidents of this kind the biggest threat to trapped miners is if their air supply is cut off, which often leads to asphyxiation before rescues can be organised.
The approximate location of the Globe and Pheonix Mine. Google Maps.
The entering of abandoned mines and other sites by artisanal miners is technically illegal in Zimbabwe,, but is widelty tollerated, as the country is plagued by high unemployment and other economic problems, and artisanal is recognised as making a significant contribution to the economy, as such miners are able to sell their product locally rather than smuggling it out to avoid the attention of local authorities, as happens in many African countries. However, the informal nature of this industry makes it extremely dangerous, as few if any health and safety precautions are taken in such mines, and their are occasional reports of armed clashes between rival groups over lucrative sites.
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