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11 garimpeiros (artisanal miners) have died in mining accidents in the Gilé district over the past few weeks.
Mining accidents have been endemic in the region for several years, and critics say the fault lies with the government’s lack of control. The authorities admit there are shortcomings.
Five prospectors died in late December in Muiane, Gilé district, when a pump they were using while panning exploded. Last week, another six people died in a landslide, all illegal prospectors, according to police.
“There was a landslide at the defunct Tantalum Mineração mine in Gilé, which killed six and seriously injuring five. They were sent to the Nampula Provincial Hospital,” Sidner Lonzo, a police spokesman in Zambezia explained.
The terrain, he said, collapsed following heavy rain since the beginning of the month in the province. The authorities urged people not to “go to into any mine, whether in use or not, without proper authorization and safety equipment”.
Lack of inspection
The problem is far from new. Illegal prospectors have been risking their lives in the old Tantalum Mineração concession for years, many abandoning their education to take up mining. The company was forced to leave the region five years ago after a popular rebellion following the death of a local gold digger.
Dionísio Graciano, a member of the Platform G20 civil society umbrella organisation, says the authorities’ fragile control is the principle cause of mining deaths in the region.
“In recent years, [in Zambezia], exploitation of mineral resources in various guises, such as heavy sands and diamonds, has intensified,” Craciano recalled, stressing that Mozambique “has laws and decrees aimed at safeguarding all rights”.
But laws on their own are not enough, he says. “Regular monitoring of the nature of work and the equipment to which workers in this sector are exposed is imperative. There is no easy way to end accidents in the workplace.”
Zambezia’s Provincial Director of Mineral Resources, Almeida Manhiça, says that it is difficult to put a stop to mining accidents altogether, as many prospectors work at night to evade the authorities’ control.
According to Manhiça, most accidents happen in the old Tantalum Mineração concession.
“Gold miners, in principle, are not allowed to mine in a concession area. If you recall, in 2015, they were detected in a monitored area, and one accidentally died. They’re not authorized by anyone, but the mining area is large and they do everything on the sly,” he says.Source: DW
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