Maintain a safety culture: Miners urged as the rainy season approaches
By Ndanatsiwa Tagwireyi
Information from the Climate Center indicates that the rainy season in Zimbabwe falls in the austral summer, and generally lasts from November to March.
As the 2022 rainy season period has arrived in Zimbabwe, extractive industry players particularly in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM) sector should adequately prepare as part of efforts to eliminate fatal accidents.
“This is one of the most dangerous seasons for small-scale and artisanal miners as we have seen lives being lost during this season,” the Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Mineral Workers Union (ZIDAMWU) Secretary General Justice Chinhema told a local publication.
In the past, several mining accidents and fatalities were recorded during the rainy season, and this shows that proper attention to preventative measures is vital. In November 2020, 6 miners were trapped underground when their mine shaft collapsed after heavy rains in Matshetshe, Esigodini. The Battlefields Mine Disaster which occurred in February 2019 claimed the lives of more than 20 miners. They were trapped underground when their shafts collapsed near Kadoma following heavy rains in the area.
With such eye watering statistics, miners in Zimbabwe need to ‘maintain a safety culture’ during the rainy season according to Thubelihle Sibanda, Safety, Health, and Environment (SHE) Manager, Zimbabwe Mining Safety Healthy & Environmental Council (ZIMSHEC).
It is on record that most small-scale miners have not adequately put resources in developing their mines to adhere to rainy season safety measures. Against this background, Sibanda says preparation for the rainy season is key citing some of the dangers that miners face with the coming in of rains
“Flooding in open pits leads to pit lakes and this happens because the drainage wells or dewatering pumps will have stopped working and open spaces are filled with ground water and surface runoff,” Sibanda said.
“If the shaft is not properly done and does not have a shed or if the area is most likely to be affected by more rainfall, its best to stop mining operations and resume after the rainy season. You capitalize on your production before rainy season affects your operations,” she cautioned.
Sibanda told the Mining Vision Magazine that miners should first assess hazard areas around the shaft or in a mine before taking mitigation measures. As part of maintaining a safety culture, she urged ASM miners to always wear Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) all the time as well as keeping equipment and machinery in recommended safe places.
“Reactivate de watering to remove water from working areas and this is applicable to both open-pit and underground mines, having pumps and water storages will make work easy,” ZIMSHEC SHE Manager advised adding that: “Knowing the correct weather forecasting will help miners know when to do certain operations and how certain resources can be allocated.”
“As Zimshec we have done tree planting in Matebeleland South and Midlands encouraging miners to plant trees in their mining surroundings because tress such as mopane and gumtrees protect the environment. Mopane tress are the ones used by miners for timbering therefore we encouraged them to plant them back,” Sibanda told the Mining Vision Magazine.
Another player in the ASM sector Makumba Nyenje weighed in and cited the need for: “storm drains around cyanidation plants, replenishing of timbers, preparing and putting in place dewatering equipment as well as afforestation,” as part of safety measures that are critical for the rainy season.