ZIMBBAWE – Three illegal miners died yesterday, while 12 others were feared to have suffered the same fate after they were trapped in a shaft at the Chiadzwa diamond fields, it has been learnt.
The illegal miners reportedly invaded the tightly guarded diamond fields on Tuesday night before they ran out of luck after the mine collapsed in the early hours of Wednesday.
Police yesterday confirmed the trapping, but put the number of victims at between five and seven.
However, sources from the diamond fields said the number of trapped people was between 15 and 20.
The invasion of the diamond fields comes in the wake of reports by Mines and Mining Development Minister Walter Chidhakwa that there was maximum security at the diamond fields and the red zones were secured.
Police chief spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba told The Herald yesterday that by last night three bodies had been retrieved while the search for survivors continued.
She said the area, which belonged to Diamond Mining Company was waterlogged, frustrating concerted efforts by the rescue teams.
“Around 1:30am (yesterday) the police were patrolling around the diamond fields when they saw some people in the diamond fields,” she said.
“The people ran away when they saw the police and when the police arrived at the shaft they saw a person who was lying unconscious with some back injuries.
“When that person gained composure, he informed the police that there were some more people who were trapped in the mine. He said maybe five or seven people were underground.
“Our team from sub aqua unit was called since the place is water-logged and so far three bodies have been retrieved.”
Continued Snr Asst Com Charamba: “They are using excavators to dig the place and frantic efforts are being made to drain the water from the mine with a view to establishing if there are still more people trapped underground.”
The people were trapped at an area known as Garden of Eden and Nengombe .
The Ministry of Mines and Mining Development is understood to have deployed a team to the diamonds fields to investigate what transpired.
Efforts to get comment from Minister Chidhakwa were fruitless last night as his mobile phone went unanswered, while his deputy, Cde Fred Moyo, said he was out of the country on official business.
Fifty panners were last week arrested for trying to access the Chiadzwa fields following a Government directive that all firms there should immediately cease operations since it had taken over control of the concessions.
Some mining, equipment, fuel and household goods were reportedly looted.
A ministerial delegation later visited the diamond fields to assess the situation, and reported that the fields were secure.