Coal Underground fires, a thorn in flesh for Hwange community.

By Rutendo Mapfumo


Two Hwange children are in hospital after they were burnt by underground coal fires in Madumabisa
The two children aged four and seven were admitted at St Patrick's hospital in Hwange.
Injuries and deaths linked to underground coal fires continue to haunt the Hwange community of
about 40 000 people who are constantly living in fear these fires. Children and livestock are often
trapped in the invisible coal fires and are set ablaze.
Mejury Mudiba, a resident from Madumabisa said the main challenge the community is facing is that
the fires are not visibly seen.
“You cannot visibly see the fires as they are underground and usually the surface of the ground will
be visibly normal with grass and everything. But the moment one steps on the ground, it opens up
and is burnt,” she said.
The Hwange Colliery Company Limited managed to barricade some of the affected areas but it
seems all is in vain as more people, especially children and livestock continue to be burnt.
“Yes the Hwange Colliery fenced off and erected some danger warning signs and barricaded some
areas but the problem of underground fires still haunts us,” said another resident who preferred
Farai Maguwu the founding director of the Centre for Natural Resource Governance (CNRG)
confirmed that the state of underground fires will continue to haunt Hwange residents if the issue is
not addressed effectively.
“Clearly the problem is continuing as we speak we have two children who are in hospital, no one is
taking any responsibility for it.
“In December of 2021, after we published the first report, the Hwange colliery went public and said
they had engaged a German firm to investigate the fires and offer solutions. It is now more than 18
months after that and nothing has been done on the ground,” said Maguwu.
He added that his organisation once engaged the German firm and Hwange Colliery Company with
no luck.
“We engaged the German company but they were refusing to talk, the Hwange Colliery Company
also refused to disclose the stage of that so-called investigation. So we conclude that nothing was
ever done that was a reactionary move. The truth of the matter is that anyone in Hwange today can
easily fall into this danger because no one knows where the fires are and where they end.”
The underground fires have existed for more than 15 years and are caused by spontaneous
combustion of coal.

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