A GROUP of illegal miners operating under the Zanu PF-linked Miners 4ED, which includes police officers and ruling party officials, have invaded Ascot Gold Mine in Norton despite the fact that it was condemned over a year ago following a fatal accident.
A disaster is looming as the group has embarked on precarious mining activities, among other illegalities. Violence and deaths have become common at the mine, as the group is acting with impunity, claiming links to President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
When the mine was shut down, in February last year, almost all safety and compliance measures were not being implemented, resulting in the authorities ordering immediate suspension of operations until the anomalies were rectified.
Norton independent legislator Temba Mliswa (pictured) has written to police chief Godwin Matanga, asking him to investigate the mine’s illegal operations and the deaths that have occurred.
Reads part of his letter dated 15 February 2023: “Commissioner-General, Sir, I hereby lodge, in my capacity as the duly elected Member of Parliament for Norton Constituency, this letter of concern and request for intervention and investigation to be instituted into Ascot Gold Mine in Norton, Mashonaland West.
“In my mandated role of legislation, and particularly that of representation and oversight in this instance, and further at the behest of the Norton Miners Association, acting on behalf of one Mr. Gomwe, both herein copied, I fervently appeal for your urgent intervention at the aforementioned gold mine to prevent any further loss of life, injustice and corrupt practices from prevailing.
According to the letter, Ascot Gold Mine is registered with the ministry of Mines and Mining Development under Kingross Investments (Private) Limited and run by one Gomwe.
However, a lawless group of individuals under the guise of Miners4ED claims to be in possession of a tribute agreement pertaining to the mine, and have illegally taken over.
Mliswa said such agreement is put to the strictest proof thereof.
“This same group are alleged to engage in abusing the name of Zanu PF and His Excellency, President E D Mnangagwa for self-aggrandisement, an abhorrent practice which should be nipped in the bud,” said Mliswa.
According to Mliswa, one Timothy Masviba (Zanu PF provincial youth member from Chegutu) and Edmore Mamoyo (Zanu PF youth league member and gold sponsor) are at the forefront of the shenanigans, leading to the illegal takeover of the mine.
Others also implicated in the illegal mine takeover are two police officers from the Norton Criminal Investigations Department identified only as Nhimbe and Msipa.
Mliswa also named several other Zanu PF officials, particularly from the youth league, who are wreaking havoc at the mine.
Mliswa said of extreme concern was the involvement of police officers who have also been captured on camera engaged in political party sloganeering.
“This illegal mining activity is in flagrant violation of not only the illegal possession of the mine, but further violates the suspension handed down by the ministry of Mines and Mining Development,” he said.
Mliswa said the invaders were contravening mining regulations by illegally removing gold ore from the mine without the requisite ore removal permit.
He said the gold illegally processed at a processing plant owned by Mamoyo is not being sold to Fidelity Printers and Refiners as per statutory requirement.
Mliswa said on 6 February, one Patrick Gondo was allegedly murdered at the mine and the group is being implicated.
The legislator said despite electricity supplies being disconnected at the mine for non-payment to Zesa, the electricity supply was illegally reconnected by those operating the mine.
“What to note is further most concerning is that despite reports being made to the police regarding the criminalities occurring at the mine, no moves have been made to cease the illegal mining activities or institute an investigation into the accusations,” Mliswa said.
“This surprising lack of action subsequently gives rise to the obvious suspicion that corruption is being committed between the illegal miners and certain members of the police force.
“The police should not hide behind the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in carrying out their mandate. It is ZRP’s role to implement the directive from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development and to protect people’s rights. The alleged tribute agreement should be null and void as they claim it was entered into during the period when the mine had ceased operations as directed by the Mines Ministry.”
A community member identified as Timothy Masviba has suddenly become rich and Mliswa is adamant he has gained wealth from the illegal mining activities.
According to documents gleaned by this publication, Ascot was shut down following a fatality which happened on 4 December 2021.
Mines ministry offcials, only identified as B. Mangwanda, the chief government mining engineer, and E, Mubayiwa, the inspector of mines and explosives, advised the mine management in a letter dated 8 December 2021, that the mine would be notified of the way forward after the finalisation of investigations into the matter.
“Please be advised that you will be required to pay a fee of $31 875 for resumption of operations as stated by the Mining (General) (Amendment) Regulation, S.I 185 of 2021,” Ascot management was told.
Meanwhile, the mining engineer’s office conducted a legal compliance inspection at Ascot Mine on 8 February 2021.
It was discovered that at the time of the visit, mining operations were taking place without the blessing of a legally appointed manager as required in terms section 3(1) and (2) of Statutory Instrument 109 of 1990, Mining (Management and Safety) Regulations.
It was also noted that there is no approved a siting of works plan as required in terms of section 234 of the Mines and Minerals Act [Chapter 21:05].
During inspection it was also noted that there was neither a surface nor underground plan being prepared and kept at the mine as required in terms of section 78 of Statutory Instrument 109 of 1990, Mining (Management and Safety) Regulations.
“There are a total 32 poorly and unsafely constructed vertical shafts being worked in with varying depths with the deepest shaft being 55 metres. These shafts have been dangerously sunk on top of previously excavated and backfilled material on a very old incline shaft situated over a stretch of approximately +100metres. The ‘crude’ and haphazard manner of spacing between the shafts is approximately 18metres, more so, these shafts are not provided with adequate restrictive barriers such as shaft gates/door which are clearly marked with ‘No Entry’ signs. This is in contravention with Sections 30(2) of Statutory Instrument 109 of 1990, Mining (Management and Safety) Regulations,” noted the government inspection team.
The investigation revealed the aforementioned shafts exceed 30 metres in depth and were being used as a means of ingress and egress into the underground workings.
“They are equipped with windlasses and nylon ropes most of which are notably worn out thereby compromising on the safety of persons being conveyed. This contravenes Section 131 of Statutory Instrument 109 of 1990, Mining (Management and Safety) Regulations,” reads a report seen by this publication.
At that time, a total of 591 full-time and contracted workers were employed at the mine.
It was also noted that workers are not provided with adequate personal protective clothing and equipment in contravention of sections 47, 48 and 191 of Statutory Instrument 109 of 1990, Mining (Management and Safety) Regulations.
Some of the workers were found working at dangerous heights without appropriate body harnesses.
It was also established that the company had no legal books in place; no register of employees, safety complaints book; no copies of regulations and no accident register.
“None could be opened for inspections,” said the inspectors.
Dumps without any designs have also been erected prior to approval, in violation of section 234 as read together with section 239(2) (a) of the Mines and Minerals Act (Chapter 21:05]
Cyanide was being used in the process of recovering the yellow metal at the mine plant.
Some workers were handling slimes containing cyanide without appropriate protective clothing and equipment.
A request for electrical diagrammes of all the electrical installations at the mine was made and the mine officials failed to produce the diagrams.
The explosives register produced during inspection showed that explosives were last used in December 2020.
However, it was established that the mine does not possess the requisite explosives permit to purchase, acquire and possess, a licence for storage of explosives and even storage facilities at the mine hence implying that explosives are being purchased, acquired and possessed illegally, contravening section (3) and (7) of the Explosives Act as read together with provisions of Statutory Instrument 72 of 1989, Explosives Regulations. — STAFF WRITER