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Government officials from the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development in the town of Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe have ordered the abandonment of a rescue mission to retrieve bodies of miners from the Eldorado mine.

Reports differ as to how many illegal miners are trapped, though it seems between 12 and 20 workers were involved in the accident last week, which saw the collapse of the Level 11 mineshaft. Thus far, only one body has been retrieved.

Access points to the mine have been closed in an attempt to prevent artisanal miners from continuing to work despite the accident, following an appeal from Mines and Mining Development secretary Munesu Munodawafa on Saturday.

At the meeting with Eldorado Mine, Munodawafa told members of the firm: “You need to improve on your security as a matter of urgency, this is your place and it is your responsibility to ensure that it is secure at all times.”

He urged the group to close the site’s main gate alongside the access points until operations could resume safely. Community leaders were also told to instruct residents to stay away from the mine.

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Illegal workers were given a two-day grace period to vacate the site, though police have so far arrested 34 miners on trespassing charges.

Zimbabwe Miners’ Federation president Henrietta Rushwaya condemned the presence of illegal and unsafe mining practices, saying: “We do not want people who go into the shafts on the pretext of looking for dead bodies when in actual fact they will be mining illegally.

“Whoever is going into the shaft is doing it at their own peril, artisanal miners are not mining experts and should wait for ministry officials’ guidance.”

The delay in retrieving the bodies of those missing has been met with criticism, with some community members saying the matter is not being treated with sufficient urgency. The families of the suspected victims have been notified, while those who have gathered at the mine since Monday have been asked to disperse.

Mining Technology’s Mining Safety content is supported by USA mining safety specialists Carroll Technologies Group.