Distraught mine explosion victim fears he may never work again

By Judith Sibanda

A Hwange man who was severely burnt when a gas battery exploded on him at a Chinese owned mine in April fears he may never be able to work again due to the severity of his injuries.

Tobias Muleya (43) who is employed by coking coal producer, South Mining, who resides at Number 3 suburbs in Hwange, is now one recovery path a month after the horrible accident that may leave him with permanent injuries.

“I was on night duty when this happened and to recall what happened after that has been difficult for me,” Muleya recounts the incident to CITE.

“I work as a controller in the department so when the electricity goes off, we are supposed to disconnect the batteries before moving away to prevent any casualties, so upon realising that the electricity had gone off, l then went to disconnect the batteries and that is when of them suddenly exploded on me.

“The gas was extremely hot and I was burnt on the face, arms, stomach and legs and because of that, l am no longer able to fully take care of myself. My body is still in the healing process so my wife and relatives are doing everything for me.”

When the incident happened on April 29, Muleya was rushed to Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) hospital where he was admitted for a day before the company ordered his release from the hospital.

“I was in deep pain and I was disappointed when my family told me that they had come to collect me as the company did not have money to pay for my hospital and medical bills. Sleeping was a struggle and even now I still struggle with so many things that require self-handling but l am in the recovery process,” said Muleya.

Muleya was taken back to the same hospital after Zimbabwe Diamond and Allied Mineral Workers Union and National Social Security Authority (NSSA) intervened and pressured the Chinese owned company to take care of his bills including medication, examination and hospitalisation. 

He was discharged from hospital on Monday this week, although he is still on regular checks.

“I will be going there regularly because that’s what the hospital staff requires, so I will not be going back to work any time soon.

“I was told that l will continue being on the payroll but I will see when the salaries come.”

Social and Heath community activist, Athanasius Sibanda called on the company to provide adequate and proper protective equipment for its employees to avoid injuries and deaths.

He also called for safety training for mine workers in case of similar incidents and for NSSA to do proper onsite visits to assess the working environment among other recommendations.

Efforts to trace the mining officials to comment on the matter were fruitless as South Mining general manager Chenji Li was out of reach.

The company targets to produce more than 400 000 tonnes of coke per annum.

It processes “Run Out of Mine” coal into coking coal, which is smelted into coke.

Coke, whose by-products include crude tar, benzol and coke oven gas, is a critical component in the ferrochrome and stainless steel smelting industry and has higher export demand than ordinary thermal coal.

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