More than 30 illegal gold miners were trapped in shafts 30 metres below ground near the central town of Kadoma after the mine they were working in was flooded. The flood was triggered by the collapse of a nearby dam wall following heavy rains.

Police spokesman Clemence Mabweazara confirmed the incident, adding that artisanal miners were at the forefront of the rescue operation.

“There was a heavy downpour resulting in the flooding of shafts. All the shafts are connected underground. We suspect the trapped miners have drowned, so our efforts are now on pumping out the water to retrieve the bodies,” Mabweazara said.

In an interview with the Herald, Eunica Zvitiki, the mother of a young man trapped in one of the pits said she did not think he would be found alive.

“From what I am seeing and the level of water I saw, there is little chance of that happening. I am preparing for the worst,” she told The Herald.

Unemployment has contributed to the high rates of illegal mining, groups of men, women and children using picks, shovels and hoes are a common sight in Zimbabwe’s mineral-rich fields. These artisanal miners operate without regulation and safety standards are hardly practiced.

This incident highlights safety issues faced by illegal gold miners, although artisanal miners produce most of Zimbabwe’s gold, it is at a huge cost to themselves and the environment.

In 2018, Zimbabwe’s illegal gold miners contributed significantly to the record bullion output of 33 tons of gold.