By Arnaldo Cuamba
At least 10 informal miners died on Monday after a mine collapsed on the Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM) concession in Montepuez, Cabo Delgado province. The provincial director of mineral resources said on Tuesday he thought 15 people were buried; two had been rescued alive.
The reasons are not yet known. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the hole collapsed following heavy rains. On Wednesday, a team from the Provincial Directorate of Mineral Resources and Energy will visit the site to investigate the causes of the tragedy.
MRM said in a press release seen by Pan African Visions that it was “deeply saddened” and seized the opportunity to draw the government’s attention to the illegal exploitation of this resource.
“Our thoughts are with families who have lost their children and siblings and we call on the authorities to enforce the law so as to stop the illegal marketing of rubies.”
Montepuez Ruby Mining Limited is a Mozambican company that operates in the Montepuez ruby deposit located in the northeast of Mozambique in the province of Cabo Delgado. Covering approximately 34,960.6 acres, it is believed to be the largest ruby deposit discovered most recently in the world. MRM is owned 75% by Gemfields and 25% by Mwiriti Limitada, a Mozambican company.
Raime Raimundo, corporate affairs manager for MRM and son of the Frelimo general who owns 25% of the company alongside Gemfields, blamed the tragedy on foreign buyers who, he said, bribe immigration officials at Pemba airport to come in and out of Mozambique and buy illegal stones from garimpeiros.
“These tragic deaths are linked to the ability of certain foreign buyers to conduct their illegal ruble purchase operations in cities such as Montepuez, without the authorities taking the necessary measures,” he said.
“They also have the ability to enter and leave the country, mainly through Pemba International Airport, often without the required documentation, paying bribes to elements of the authorities,” he added.
The Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy (MIREME), through its general Inspector, Obete Matine, has already pronounced on the accident, stating that there are in rescue operations of miners in the mine. He said that in order to avoid accidents, MIREME is working to “transform what is illegal into legal where possible through associations and insistence on good practices.”
He also said that given the frequency of accidents, especially in areas of occurrence of minerals, the government will strengthen control and security measures.