Miraculous rescue: All 15 miners trapped at Redwing rescued; tree roots and leaves kept them alive


MUTARE – A remarkable rescue operation successfully saved all 15 artisanal miners who were trapped underground at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga near Mutare after a shaft collapse last week. The miners, who survived on tree roots and leaves, were brought to safety yesterday, thanks to the deployment of advanced technology by the government and the unwavering efforts of local mining companies, including Metallon Corporation.

redwing miners trapped rescued
Image: The Herald 

The miners had been trapped for four days before rescue teams, consisting of personnel from Metallon Corporation, Freda Rebecca Gold Mine, and other mining companies, collaborated closely with the government to locate and extract them from the collapsed mine.

The rescued miners have been identified as Tatenda Gumbo, Kudakwashe Mucharwa, Simbarashe Siziba, Godson Mandimutsa, Owen Jaison, Maxwell Matsangomba, Joseph Sithole, Promise Gumbo, Akim Tarambira, Conrad Tsiga, Brian Mucharwa, Robson Magamba, Believe Mutema, Kodzana Dzina, and Douglas Mhlanga.

Mines and Mining Development Minister Zhemu Soda expressed gratitude to all those involved in the rescue operation, including government departments, the local community, and mining industry players such as Freda Rebecca, who provided extensive assistance.

"Initially we had four that came out and now we have a total of 15 that have been rescued. We want to thank the Lord who has made these people survive.

"What we got from them (the rescued) is that the whole mine underground is collapsed and this must be known by everyone. An assessment will have to be done before operations or activities resume at this mine.

"But we are grateful that all of them have survived. I want to thank everybody who has participated in this rescue operation: all Government departments and the community around as well as others in the mining industry such as Freda Rebecca who came in with all forms of assistance."

Highlighting the successful coordination between the government and the private sector, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister July Moyo commended the use of cutting-edge technology and the professionalism displayed by the trapped miners. 

Minister Moyo emphasized, "We are all happy because the rescue operation was a success and the level of coordination among Government and the private sector was excellent, led by the Civil Protection Unit of Zimbabwe," said Minister Moyo.

"Other mines also joined in this rescue operation; it was a well-coordinated rescue operation. We are very happy that Zimbabwe has the capabilities and technologies to rescue its people when we have challenges or accidents of this nature.

"Those who were trapped were also very professional. I am told that when the mine collapsed, they went deeper down to ensure they will not be hit by the falling debris.

"I also want to thank their families who were very cooperative while waiting for the completion of the rescue mission," said Minister Moyo.

Advocate Misheck Mugadza, Minister of State for Manicaland Provincial Affairs and Devolution, expressed relief and gratitude to the government for its responsiveness, stating, "The challenge we all had was huge and we almost lost hope."

Survivors recounted their harrowing experience, with Promise Gumbo revealing, "We were eating the roots of trees and leaves to survive. We would taste the roots before eating. That resulted in us surviving... We also survived due to teamwork."

Kodzana Dzima, another survivor, described the ordeal as "terrible" and explained, "All the entrances were closed after the mine collapsed... We followed the cracks where there was light and this helped us move closer to where we were eventually assisted."

A parent of one of the miners expressed gratitude to the government and the entire rescue team, relieved that all 15 miners had emerged alive.

Metallon Corporation, the owner of Redwing Mine, released a statement following the rescue operation, confirming that there were no casualties and providing context to the incident. The statement mentioned that artisanal mining was introduced on a large scale after the mine was placed under corporate rescue in 2020 but emphasized that efforts were underway to restore formalized mining and end unsafe practices.

"We are relieved to report that all 15 miners have evacuated to the surface and there has been no loss of life.

"Medical care and all necessary support have been rendered to the affected. Metallon Corporation, the owner of Redwing Mine and Mazowe Mine, wishes to state the following:

"Redwing Mine has historically operated as a formalised, large-scale mine. When the mine was placed under corporate rescue in 2020, and under the management of an administrator, artisanal mining was introduced on a wide scale. This incident occurred in one of the artisanal mining near-surface pits.

"In 2022, the Supreme Court effectively removed the mine from corporate rescue. Since then, Metallon has been engaged in processes to restore formalised mining. As part of these processes, Metallon is ending unsafe mining practices, including all small-scale mining, and returning these operations to the formalised mining that Metallon has always conducted," the statement read. 

The successful rescue operation serves as a testament to the capabilities and dedication of the rescue teams involved, while underscoring the indispensable and supreme importance of safety measures and responsible mining practices moving forward.

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