Mining failure engulfs class in Zimbabwe, 17 injured

At least 17 elementary school students were injured in Zimbabwe on Thursday after their classroom collapsed into a sinkhole, local authorities said, blaming the incident on uncontrolled underground mining.

A primary school in Kwekwe, a town about 200 kilometers southwest of the capital Harare, is located close to two gold mines.

In the past, school officials have complained about illegal mining under its grounds.

“One girl was seriously injured and steps were taken to rush her to hospital,” local MP Judith Tobaiva told AFP.

Photos circulating on social media show a hole opening under the classroom floor, swallowing desks, chairs and school bags.

Tobaiwa said a total of 17 students aged 10 to 11 were affected.

“There are still explosions and the whole school building is shaking,” she added, speaking on the phone from the scene of the accident.

Provincial Affairs Minister Larry Mavima said authorities had ordered the school to close and were trying to find an alternative location for its students.

“As a government, we are very shocked by this incident and disappointed that the miners did not take the necessary security measures in the area to prevent a similar accident,” he said.

According to him, an investigation will be launched, “why this happened and who can be held responsible for this.”

This landlocked South African country boasts huge gold reserves.

According to official data, in May last year, the precious metal accounted for about a third of all exports.

This sector has attracted hundreds of thousands of small informal miners, who often work illegally.

According to a 2020 International Crisis Group (ICG) report, 1.5 million people have turned to artisanal mining due to widespread unemployment, poverty and economic hardship.

Accidents are relatively common in decommissioned mines, especially when the soil is loosened by rain.