THE Environmental Management Agency (Ema) says most of the fatalities that have been recorded at President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s top ally, Pedzisai Scott Sakupwanya’s Redwing Mine in Penhalonga, Manicaland province, were gas-related incidents.

Betterbrands mining company was forced to close its mining operations recently after several deaths were recorded at the mine.

The closure of the mine came after the Centre for Research and Development (CRD), Ziva Community Empowerment Trust, and Penhalonga Youth Development Ratepayers Trust claimed that 100 artisanal workers had died at Sakupwanya’s mine since 2020.

Recently, the company was accused of conducting secret mining activities despite a government order to suspend operations.

Ema Manicaland provincial manager Kingstone Chitotombe said Betterbrands had resumed mining activities.

“Yes, they (Betterbrands) have resumed mining operations. We gave them conditions to operate. If they comply they are going to be successful,” Chitotombe said.

NewsDay is in possession of the letter directed to Betterbrands by EMA.

“We would like to commend your efforts towards bringing sanity to the mining areas and your efforts towards addressing concerns from stakeholders. We further take note of your commitment to comply with recommendations given in the joint inspection report,” the March 14 letter by EMA read.

“However, we remain highly concerned with the frequency of fatalities occurring at your mine. We take note that most of the fatalities that have been reported since the beginning of this year are gassing-related incidents.

“In this regard, you may resume operations on the following conditions: operations should resume only after Betterbrands has purchased eight gas monitors. There is a pre-requisite for re-entry into workings and they can detect concentrations of gases that may have accumulated in the process as is being witnessed by reports of fatalities reported to date.”

Ema demanded that Betterbrands strengthens access control with immediate effect by completely fencing off the area being mined.

“You must implement an effective clocking in and out system to ensure that those working in the mine are held accountable. Put adequate measures to comply with mine management and safety regulations,” read the letter.

CRD director James Mupfumi said Betterbrands was being protected by the political elite who are benefiting from the gold smuggling syndicates.

“BetterBrands does not care where gold is coming from, he just cares about meeting targets of the Gold Mafia in Dubai. Mining is being done at the expense of human life and this is the reason why sometimes he has been defying the government ban to mine at Redwing because he has been protected by the political elites who are benefiting from the gold smuggling ring,” Mupfumi said.

Sakupwanya did not answer calls from NewsDay yesterday.

He is a key Zanu PF member and is expected to help raise finances for the ruling party’s 2023 election campaign.

Civil society organisations operating in Manicaland this year issued a joint Press statement expressing concern over deadly mine accidents in Penhalonga.

“Since 2020, we have observed that Betterbrands has engaged artisanal miners in subsistence surface mining operations at Redwing Mine in what appears to be lack of capacity by the company to invest in modern large-scale gold mining equipment,” the statement read.

“We have noticed that artisanal miners are poorly resourced, they are dying from shaft and roof collapsing as a result of weak and unsupported roofs. Only half way through the month of January 2023, four have died, two from ground collapse and two from flooding in a shaft.

“Since January, at least four other mine deaths have been recorded at the mine. A minimal of 47 artisanal mine workers (25 in 2021 and 22 in 2022 were confirmed by relevant officials to have lost their lives. Sources working in the mine pits indicated that over 100 people lost their lives in the pits since 2020 but some are not officially recorded,” read the statement by civic organisations, the Centre for Resource Governance (CRD), Zivai Community Empowerment Trust, and Penhalonga Youth Development Trust. Newsday

By Power

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