BY BLESSED MHLANGA
MINES minister Winston Chitando has disclosed that two weeks before the tragic drowning of 24 artisanal miners at Cricket and Silver Moon mines in Battlefields last week, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) had raised a red flag over safety conditions at the two mines, but the warnings were ignored.
Chitando said he was aware of the safety recommendations and warnings made by EMA in a report, which has not been made public.
“The fact of the matter is that we have EMA, which visited the site about two weeks ago and made observations, which unfortunately were not enforced. It’s not that government is not taking safety seriously, but there were observations, which were made but unfortunately not enforced,” he said.
Chitando warned that heads would roll, especially on Mines ministry officials who failed to immediately implement the recommendations, culminating in the disaster.
“When you have incidences of this nature, there is a process which is provided for by legislation to review what has happened and to make people accountable where there is need to be accountable,” he said.
At least 70 artisanal miners were believed to be underground when the mines were hit by flash floods, before eight of them were rescued, while efforts to account for the rest are still underway.
Chitando committed to increase water pumping capacity at Cricket Mine, where four miners are still believed to be trapped underground, although gold panners in the area insist the number could be higher.