By Mthulisi Mathuthu
SW Radio Africa
21 July 2014
The Zimbabwean economy has suffered another blow after Zimplats reported a huge decline in platinum production due to an underground collapse at the company’s biggest mine in the country.
Zimplats Chief Executive Officer Alex Mhembere confirmed the collapse of Bimha Mine last Friday and said, as a result, production had been ‘downscaled by 50 percent equating to 45,000 ounces of platinum.’ Mhembere said the mine collapsed due to increased deterioration of ground conditions, along a fault first identified in 2011. No casualties were reported.
According to reports the South African-based Impala Platinum, which is the parent company of Zimplats, saw its shares drop by close to three percent as a result of the accident.
This was the second mining accident involving a platinum mining company in two years. In 2012 more than 70 miners were rescued at Mimosa Mine after they had been trapped underground for days following the collapse of the conveyor equipment.
Platinum is one of Zimbabwe’s biggest foreign currency earners as the country boasts the world’s second-largest known reserves, after South Africa, making Zimplats a key source of revenue for Impala Platinum.
MDC-T Shadow Minister for mines Abednico Bhebhe said the development was sure to further cripple the country’s economy which is already suffocating due to company closures and government maladministration.
He said: ‘I am saddened and shocked by this. Economically, that accident has taken the country further backwards because Zimplats was one of these companies that have been contributing hugely towards the national revenue.’
Bhebhe said while by comparison mining accidents were ‘not really out of hand’ in the region, companies have a duty to observe safety and to prioritize workers’ lives and welfare.
His comments came after the National Mineworkers Union blamed last week’s accident on the management’s negligence. Last month another accident killed seven miners and left an equal number severely injured at the Golden Valley Mine in Kadoma. Again, workers blamed negligence for the accident.
The accident also comes at a time when the country’s revenue base has dwindled significantly due to a number of factors, including policy failure and corruption, leaving the government struggling to pay civil servants’ salaries. As a result the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority has resorted to desperate means such as raiding small companies and mounting roadblocks to fine motorists and travellers for the slightest of offences.