Africa 3.3.2016 02:31 pm

15 illegal diamond panners feared dead in Zim

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

At least 15 illegal panners are feared dead in the Chiadzwa diamond mines after a heap of ore tumbled towards them during the early hours of Wednesday.

Police spokesperson and senior assistant commissioner Charity Charamba has confirmed that so far there have been three deaths.

A source said the panners were swept into a slime dam adjacent to where they were carrying out the mining within the Diamond Mining Concession (DMC) mining fields.

By late Wednesday, some bodies had reportedly been retrieved from a shaft at Eden Garden which is owned by DMC.

“They were panning very close to a slime dam on the edge of a mountain. There is a lot of moisture and the panners were trapped when huge boulders rolled from the mountain,” a source said.

“There were about 15 panners and they were trapped by ore. People were waiting for excavators to retrieve the bodies, but they only came in the afternoon. They started retrieving bodies from the slime dam near where they were mining.”

Police have since intensified their search through roping in the sub-aqua unit to search for the other panners who were believed to have drowned.

Illegal panners flocked to Chiadzwa immediately after government cancelled licences for companies operating in the diamond mining fields and banned all operations there.

In addition to the stream of illegal panners are a number of foreign diamond buyers who have have descended on the Chiadzwa area.

Mines and Mining Development minister Walter Chidakwa on February 22 ordered all companies in Chiadzwa to halt operations. He gave all six companies, namely Anjin Investments, DMC, Jinan, Kusena, Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds, a 90-day ultimatum to remove their equipment after they rejected a proposal to amalgamate the sector.

The Zimbabwean government has a 50 percent shareholding in all these companies.

Chidakwa said all the companies’ licences had expired.

He told journalists at a press conference two weeks ago that: “Since they no longer hold any titles, these companies were notified this morning to cease all mining activities with immediate effect and to vacate the mining area covered by special grants for diamonds.”

During the conference he elaborated on the 90-day ultimatum: “They have been given 90 days within which to remove their equipment and other valuables. During this period, access into premises will be by request which will be considered by the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development.”

Last March, Chidakwa announced that all diamond mining companies would amalgamate and fall under the Zimbabwe Consolidated Diamond Company, with the State retaining its 50 percent shareholding.

– African News Agency (ANA)

 

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