Arusha, Tanzania — MININGREVIEW.COM — 07 April, 2008 – The Tanzanian government has partially lifted the ban on small-scale tanzanite mining, imposed after flooding left 41 miners dead and 25 others missing last weekend in a remote tanzanite mine at Merelani, in northern Tanzania.
Reporting this development from here, Bloomberg News quoted Manyara regional commissioner Henry Shekifu as saying: “The inspectors came and thought everything was fine to start operations. Only one of four mining blocks at the site of the flooding, about 20 km from Arusha, near Mount Kilimanjaro, remains closed,” he added.
“Tanzanite production is running at about 90 percent of normal levels in the northern Mererani region where the accident occurred March 30,” Shekifu told Bloomberg News in a telephone interview from the area.
The miners drowned while working underground after water entered the shafts in the wake of torrential downpours. Safety inspectors ordered mine owners to reinforce the entry-ways to shafts to prevent a recurrence.
“There is one part of the mine where we expect to find a lot of people who drowned,” Shekifu said. “In two to three days, there is an expectation that we could clear out the mine and get it inspected to resume operations there.”
In Tanzania’s worst mining disaster, about 70 people were killed in 1998 when heavy rains caused a mine to collapse. Explosions and suffocation are also common causes of mining accidents in Tanzania’s "wild north", where small-scale independent miners dig remote gem fields in search of tanzanite.
Tanzanite One Ltd.,the world’s biggest tanzanite producer, has announced that its mine was unaffected by the work stoppage, and all of its employees are accounted for.