By Mark Mhukayesango
Kwekwe, April 07, 2016 – GLOBE PHOENIX primary school, a learning facility situated at an old gold mine in central Kwekwe has been a target of illegal gold panners who are digging tunnels into the classrooms leaving pupils in danger of collapsing into the mine shafts.
A tunnel stretching from Mapurazi Mining Syndicate Mine was discovered by the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), which has since been raiding the area with the CID Gold Squad.
Globe Phoenix is reportedly sitting on huge gold deposits, leading to current struggles with illegal gold panners.
The tunnel, which is mainly dug during the night, has however been a cause for concern for school authorities who fear pupils might lose their lives during lessons.
The ground has also been affected due to continuous blasting underground, with the Kwekwe’s DA’s office being another spot now on the verge of collapse due to underground activities.
Huge cracks are visible, a situation which has grown worse over the years.
The school, citing danger of collapse, has since abandoned the classroom.
A visit to the area by RadioVOP this week showed that illegal gold miners have wreaked havoc at the school that is now littered with deep mine shafts.
Kenia Matema, a local, was dismayed at that the illegal miners were only interested in the gold and not the safety of the students.
“No matter how many raids have been conducted here, they still come back for gold. We are therefore appealing for more support to deter the panners from their activities as they will affect learning at the school,” said Matema.
The situation gets worse during school holidays.
James Chimuka, Admin Executive at Mapurazi Mining Syndicate, said his company was fighting a losing battle, because the fence erected to deter the illegal miners has been removed countless times.
“We have been engaging in a continuous process of guarding our claims and the school from these illegal miners, but it seems we are fighting a losing battle,” he said.
Chimuka said the security concerns of the school and the mine led to the arming of security personnel.
“We have gone to the extent of giving guns to our security personnel because they have to defend themselves as some of the panners become violent at times. They are so daring such that they confront our security guards; in fact we need more security guards,” Chimuka said.
He added that his company has been engaged in efforts to rehabilite the mining area through tree planting and closing the mineshafts, which had become a danger to residents living in surrounding areas.
Globe Phoenix has suffered for harbouring illegal miners on their claims as water pipes have been clogged in order to access water for processing gold which is popularly known as Kubhagabhaga.
They have also allegedly blocked sewer pipes in search of water.
EMA spokesperson at the tour Benson Bhasera said the owners of the mine needed to set mechanisms to deal with the gold panners.
“We know that it’s an issue of survival, but as you can see the school is in danger so we need to work at stopping this madness. We will continue with our raids and we will work with the police who have the capacity to prosecute,” said Bhasera.
During the tour, the mining area looked like a derelict land as the gold panners had been tipped off about the EMA tour.
Kwekwe sits on gold, with greater part of the city built on old mines that has made it a target for gold panners.
The gold rush of 2008 has left EMA clueless as to how it can rehabilitate the environment where gold panners have left huge scars on the environment.
It is also feared the practice could persist as some of the syndicates involve police members.