Survivors narrate ordeal at mine

The survivors of a collapsed mine that is feared to have killed some 12 miners [see previous entry re. updated number of miners killed (20)] after giving way on Sunday in Geita District, said they were “very lucky” as they recounted the ordeal yesterday. The three artisan miners broke into tears as they told Energy and Minerals minister William Ngeleja who visited them in hospital that they did not believe their colleagues were still alive. Narrating their ordeal from the Geita District Hospital, the three small-scale miners said they “are very lucky” to survive the collapse. “I was about to take some crude gold out of the mine when I heard a deafening noise, and I saw billowing dust. Then I heard a colleague of mine crying for help,” one of the survivors, Shitenga Bushu, said. The 22-year-old miner from Mwashata Village in Meatu District was rescued together with Matondo Shaaban, 28, and Matondo Bulili, 24, from Ikindilo Village, Bariadi District, all in Shinyanga Region. The miners were using hand tools to dig a shaft when a wall gave way as they reached a depth of around 140 metres. The names of only 12 miners seen going underground had been registered outside the mine. But over a dozen more are believed to have accompanied their colleagues under the sandy pit belonging to Shanta Mine at Mgusu Village. Heavy rains since Sunday dashed the little hope of rescuing alive those who were still trapped under the rubble of stones. Mwanza regional commissioner James Msekela said Monday besides the heavy rains the rescue operation had stalled due to lack of equipment. The mine’s location, on a hilly and ragged terrain, has also made it difficult for authorities to transport borrowed equipment from the Geita Gold Mine to assist the operation. According to the three survivors, the miners had been about 20 hours under the sandy soil before the mine gave way on early Sunday morning. Bulili said his friend who was calling for help had his hand trapped under huge stones. He said he used a hammer to crush the stones and managed to rescue him. After rescuing his friend, he proceeded to help two other miners who were also trapped and lying under huge rocks. The three then dug a hole through a tunnel and escaped from the collapsed mine. Bushu said the incident had left him with “horrible memories of mining.” He cried as he saw his relatives who had believed that he had died after not finding him as news of the collapse spread across the region. He told the minister, who was accompanied by the RC and some members of a regional security committee, that he would never again return to mining. But his colleagues, Shaaban and Bulili said though the incident was “frightening” they would not stop mining. This is the third fatal mining accident in a year to occur in the country. More than 80 small-scale miners died after a mine in Mererani was flooded about a year ago, while six more died in September 2008. Geita has attracted miners since gold was discovered in the early 1900s. However, the small-scale miners’ activities are highly unregulated, resulting in dangerous practices. Most of the artisan miners lack skills, the technology and capital needed for such activities, which makes their pursuits always risky. Although no death has yet been confirmed in the latest incident, about a dozen people are believed to be still trapped since Sunday. Mgusu village chairman Isack Wandiba said miners who were identified included Emmanuel Sumbuko, Nendi Magembe, Bertha Nuglaji, Emmanuel Bulandi and Ngalika Joba. Others are Nesi Simon, Matthew Shashala, Jumanne Mbeu, Lusegna busu, Mwikwabi Chacha, Matondo Bulili and Matondo Shaaban. Regional authorities are working together with rescue experts from the Geita Gold Mine (GGM) to rescue the miners.


By Faida Muyomba, Geita

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