The use of poor or sub-standard equipment is a leading cause of accidents in small-scale mining, and the government has intervened through a nationwide risk assessment and awareness campaign to reduce such unfortunate incidents.
Cases of accidents in the small-scale mining sector have been increasing, resulting in casualties due to sub-standard equipment making it difficult to adhere to and adhere to standard safety practices.
The industry contributes significantly to the country’s mine production, accounting for approximately 60% of gold production, although there remains a large gap in demand from small-scale and artisanal miners in terms of increased productivity and limited risk.
A government audit of occupational health and safety in mines revealed insufficient monitoring of small and medium-sized artisanal mines, resulting in most mines not meeting health and safety standards.
In addition, mines are operating without regular inspections, and mines lack risk assessment policies and plans.
Mines and Mines Development Minister Pfungwa Kunaka said the government was concerned about the rise in accident cases and was taking steps to step up occupational health and safety awareness campaigns.
“The first step is to raise awareness across the country, and mining engineering departments play a key role in safety and environmental awareness. They play a key role in extending their services, engaging with artisanal miners on site,” he said in a recent speech in Victoria said in an interview on the sidelines of the Association of Mining Managers of Zimbabwe (AMMZ) annual conference held at Waterfall.
“Another key issue that also comes up is people choosing sub-standard equipment and using it at risk. So some of the safety concerns we have are related to the equipment they use
“We believe that some imported equipment may not meet key standards. Every artisanal miner who buys equipment is required to have it inspected, which is not happening, so these are some of the challenges facing the industry, and we are trying to do this by launching inspections. and risk assessment plan,” he said.
In May, at a mine in Gwanda, seven miners were reported to have died after falling from a depth of 240 meters after a wire rope snapped.
The wire ropes used to lift the hopper to the surface were allegedly below the required standard, thus endangering the lives of workers.
Other mine collapses and worker deaths have been reported across the country.
Mr Kunaka also said that while efforts were being made to minimize accidents, some artisanal miners were ignoring such measures in order to quickly profit from available gold deposits at specific sites.
“Miners value time and money, and sometimes they think checking and debugging equipment is a waste of time, but it’s very important.
“Some of them quickly forget about the safety measures and move to the next area because they are not registered and are nomads. They are here one day and move to the next area the next day because they are in a hurry to buy minerals, ’ said Mr Kunaka, adding that this created space for additional and sustained awareness campaigns across the country.
Landmine accidents occur not only in the small sector but also in large mining companies, albeit at a lower rate.
Elton Gwatidzo, president of the AMMZ, said mining was a high-risk industry that needed to increase safety and reduce accident rates.
“Large mining companies are not immune to accidents; it’s a high-risk industry to work in. However, with large miners we invest in a level of safety to ensure we protect our employees.
“Although we have accidents everywhere, the efforts to minimize such impacts and reduce them are commendable. We continue to work with various stakeholders to ensure that such numbers continue to decline,” he said in an interview.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions has been identified as one of the methods that can be used to minimize accidents, not only in mining but also in other industries such as manufacturing.