Mozambique: Three Die in Mine Collapse in Zambezia

Maputo — Three illegal miners died, and two others were injured on Thursday when part of a mine wall collapsed in Gile district, in the central Mozambican province of Zambezia, according to a report on the independent television station, STV.

The collapse occurred at the tantalum mine in Muiane which has been occupied by illegal miners for more than a week, with enormous damage to the mining installations and equipment.

The mine is operated by the company Tantalum Mineracao e Prospeccao Limitada, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Wildcat Resources Corporation.

The trouble began on 9 November when police shot dead an illegal miner who had slipped inside the mine in order to steal material. Spotting the intruder, a policeman shot and killed him. A group of rioters then descended on the mine armed with rifles, machetes and pickaxes and proceeded to loot and destroy.

In control of the mine, the rioters, and many other members of the local community, including children, began to hack at the cliffs towering over the mine, in an attempt to extract previous stones. The main product of the mine is tantalum, but tourmalines and other precious stones are also found there.

Safety precautions in illegal mining do not exist, and on Thursday part of the cliff collapsed and buried several of the looters, killing three of them. Judging from the STV footage, there was no police presence at all on the mine premises.

The director of Tantalum Mineracao, Chippy Shaik, has put the damage to the company’s equipment at ten million US dollars. “Who is going to pay for the expenditure the company made over the last eight years in state-of-the-art machinery for extracting minerals?”, he asked.

The police have promised to investigate the attack and looting of the mine, but so far no arrests have been made.

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