HARARE – Gold panners have invaded Eureka Gold Mine in Zimbabwe, which was reopened last year after spending 15 years out of production.

Reports said on Tuesday that the gold panners were concerned that Eureka had taken long to kick start production since investors came in.

Zimbabwe has a huge small-scale mining and informal sector, estimated at over 500 000 by the Zimbabwe Miners Federation.

These have been driving the bulk of gold output in the past decade when large scale mines collapsed under the weight of foreign currency shortages and general economic decay.

These panners rely on shafts from old and abandoned mines, and it appears their patience was running out at Eureka, where they operated for many years.

Guruve South member of Parliament Patrick Dutiro said on Tuesday more than 100 illegal miners had invaded Eureka.

“It is true that there is a group of more than 100 illegal miners mainly from Guruve who have invaded the gold mine and I hear the police threatened to forcibly remove them at one time,” said Cde Dutiro.

“These illegal miners are alleging that the mine is lying idle and no activity is taking place although it is just a clear indication that the locals are not fully appraised of the current situation at the mine.

“The management is tied up with safety issues, especially in regard to the removal of water from the mine claims which have not been operational for a long time, hence there are certain serious precautionary measures to be observed for the safety of the community as per EMA demands.”

Eureka is currently prioritising the safety of its workers.

It is removing water from the shafts before kickstarting production.

This is in with the Environmental Management Agency (EMA) regulations.

Mashonaland Central police spokesperson Inspector Milton Mundembe urged mine owners to always take necessary security measures.

“Our stance is to come up with operations to flush out illegal miners everywhere at the same time encouraging them to formalise mining activities, however, in scenarios like the Eureka Mine we also urge those who own mines to devise security measures that guard against illegal mining activities,” he said.

“Inasmuch as we chip in as the police, we cannot be in every corner since these miners have a habit of regrouping themselves and invading again, but the management can come up with a security fence, even CCTVs can help us to apprehend culprits.”