By Nobuhle Mabhikwa-Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association

When someone you love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure”

Treasuring the memories and lesson learnt from the Battlefields disaster. In 2019 on the 13th of February. 32 miners were trapped, of the 32 trapped 8 were rescued alive and 24 died at the Cricket mine, Battlefields.

These are the Known facts!!!!!!!!

  • Three days, the number it took to rescue eight people alive and recover 24 dead bodies.
  • One powerful pump from Zimplats was singled out by relatives of the deceased miners as an exemplary response to the emergency. With more pumps like that, de-watering was not going to take three days or more.
  • More than a thousand people were on site, mainly relatives and friends who were eager to find out the fate of their loved ones.
  • One day, powerful rains received in a generally hot and dry period, is all it took to bring hope to farmers and trauma to miners.
  • One doctor was available to help during the entire rescuing mission.

In the spirit of lessons learnt and memories  this brings me to my next questions;

  1. What has changed to Improve SHE in the ASM sector?
  2. What has been done by both government and private sector in the ASM Sector to improve SHE? Is enough being done, is enough being shared?
  3. Are the policies and regulation enabling enough to promote it?
  4. Are the law enforcement agencies and regulators playing their part to improve SHE and reduce the loss of live?

Mining in its own right is a very risky sector but I dream of the day when miners can stand up and take it upon themselves to act on SHE issues because they have been empowered and their lives matter . I dream of the day when   is just beyond making the grams but the same value put to that gram is even more for the lives that go underground and dig for that gram . it can not be denied many people have ventured into mining as a source of livelihood.  The drivers pushing more people into the sector include climate change many farmers are venturing into mining. The  Economic situation and the high level of unemployment are some of the known drivers.

Every miner is entitled to a safe and healthy working conditions. safety is an essential component of any healthy workplace. Mines in particular are hazardous environments with a greater potential for large-scale environmental damage and loss of life than for many other workspaces, thus making mine safety an ever-present concern.

Mine safety is achieved through the identification and minimization of hazards that include environmental and equipment-based factors. Today, miners rely on a combination of safety practices and equipment to improve caution, provide warning, and ensure protection from harm.

 In Zimbabwe artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) has emerged as a shock absorber to the country’s high unemployment rate, youths are the most affected. More than 500 000 people directly work as panners in Zimbabwe. And more than a million are indirectly benefiting from their activities.

The battlefields accident that happened did not only hit home, but it was an eye opener. The lives that were lost during that accident could have been reduced if only the miner knew how to offer 1st aid to the fatalities. In an attempt to save an injured person someone probably made it worse because they did not know how the handle the person or the injury.  In the spirit of Ubuntu, one probably moved the injured when they should have not making it worse, one could have administered CPR while they wait for medical help but did not because they did not know how to. One probably bled to death because of the people present, no one knew how to stop the bleeding  Like the saying goes Knowledge is Power, Power provides Information; Information leads to Education, Education breeds Wisdom; Wisdom is Liberation. People are not liberated because of lack of knowledge, and without knowledge people perish.  Knowledge gap as been identified as one of the reasons why many people have perished in the ASM sector . the miners involved have little or minimal understanding of SHE and those who do there is poor enforcement of rules and regulation to help reduce the number of accidents in the ASM.

The Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA) in the last year has implemented activities that have aimed at bridging  the Knowledge gap in the ASM sector of safety health and environment and the legislation related to SHE.  Last year ZELA was able to train miners and mine managers on SHE.  Working with Murowa Diamonds a SHE toolkit was developed for the miners . all this work could have not been possible with out collaborating with other stakeholders. ZELA partnered with the first aid society to train the miners on how to administer 1st aid when there is a medical emergency at the mine. ZELA partnered with EMA, the School of Mines in Bulawayo to train the miners of environmental rehabilitation and management at mining sites and the SHE toolkit used by the school of mines as well as the use of technology to reduce accidents in mining. In the last year following the training miners in Gwanda were able to come together and participate in the national tree planting day. This was an initiative to promote environmental rehabilitation in mining areas

However  “Knowing is not enough we must apply. Willing is not enough we must do”, -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

There is still a lot to be done to improve the SHE in the ASM sector in Zimbabwe, there is still so much to do with the collaboration of the actors , policy makers , researcher and influencers in the ASM Sector. A lot still needs to be done to improve the SHE in our mining sector. We still need to improve as a nation on law enforcement , enforcing law that relate to SHE , embracing and investing in technology that allows us to improve on SHE and provides early warning signs, and invest more In research, research on safe mining methods, research on alternatives for mercury and more environmental rehabilitation

Safety applies with equal force to the individual, to the family, to the employer, to the state, the nation and to international affairs. Safety, in its widest sense, concerns the happiness, contentment and freedom of mankind.”– William M. Jeffers, former President, Union Pacific Railroad Co. (1946)

This Blog is in dedication to all the dearly departed  Battlefield disaster Victims , one life lost is one too many . May their souls continue to Rest In Power

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