Ticking time bomb at Metallon

…As illegal gold miners invade  underground operations

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TINASHE MAKICHI 

There is an imminent disaster waiting to happen at Metallon Gold Corporation following revelations that  its Mazowe Gold Mine underground operations have been invaded by illegal gold miners.

The halting of operations at the Mashonaland Central-based Mazowe Mine last year, owing to operational challenges, rendered most of its employees jobless and also opened up opportunities for illegal miners to invade the underground tunnels in search of the precious mineral.

It has since been established that thousands of illegal miners are currently operating underground.

The Mzi Khumalo-owned Metallon has How Mine (flagship), Shamva, Redwing and Mazowe Mines under its portfolio. Out of the four mines, only two are still operating.

Metallon has since put two of its operations, Mazowe and Shamva under business rescue to protect equipment and other assets from creditors.

Information gathered by Business Times points to the fact that some senior managers at the mine are allegedly making a fortune from the illegal gold miners.

Sources said the managers are paid each time a team of illegal miners access the underground operations.

The biggest worry, experts say, is that there are indications that the illegal miners have been targeting underground mine pillars for easy access to the precious metal.

“This situation where the mine has been invaded by illegal miners without proper experience to mine, means a disaster is imminent,” said one source. “The teams of illegal miners are gaining access to the tunnels through the assistance of some senior managers at the mine.

“We are likely going to experience an incident far worse than the one that happened in Kadoma because the numbers underground are huge. The senior managers are pocketing about US$200 per each illegal miner and they are making a fortune,” the source added.

Mazowe Mine is one of the oldest mines in Zimbabwe. Exploration and development dates back to 1890, with over 1.4 million ounces of gold produced to date. The mine comprises two underground operations, Mazowe and the BSV sections.

The mine has a total of 247 claims over 2,939 hectares of land holding. The ore is processed in a single plant which consists of conventional crushing and milling, and a carbon-in-leach facility.
No comment could be obtained from Metallon Corporation as the group did not respond to enquiries from Business Times.

But the Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Minister Monica Mavhunga told this publication that a team had been dispatched to the mine to undertake an investigation.

“I have sent a team to Mazowe Mine to undertake an investigation as to what is taking place there.  I will be able to furnish you with further details once the team is done,” Mavhunga said.

Mashonaland Central police spokesperson Milton Mundembe confirmed the existence of illegal gold miners at Mazowe Mine. He noted that the police were working closely with mine security but with not much success.

“Mazowe Mine has challenges, and as you are aware the mine has not been operating,” Mundembe said. “The mine has so many breathers and shafts and this has opened up room for several illegal activities there. But as the police we have been working closely with mine security in making some raids but
success has been minimal.”

The current worries come after the country experienced a mine disaster in Kadoma this February 2019, in which at least 23 artisanal miners perished after some interlinked tunnels and shafts at two mines in Battlefields, near Kadoma, got flooded while the miners were underground.

The tragic incident, which ranks as the worst mine disaster in recent years, was linked to heavy rains which pounded Kadoma, causing a dam wall to collapse and resulting in the flooding of the tunnels of the two mines.