According to reports, illegal gold miners are accessing old underground mines and extracting the gold-bearing vein material with hammers and chisels and then crushing and concentrating it on surface.
These mines are very unstable in most cases, and flooded in some instances, which has inevitably led to a number of deaths over the past couple of years. The miners say they are aware of the risks, but due to the high unemployment levels, are forced to work the abandoned shafts, selling their concentrates to middlemen who in turn smuggle the material across the country’s porous borders.
Syndicates are also becoming more sophisticated and there have been reports of them bringing in large earthmoving equipment and even sourcing old Rhodesian Geological Survey maps and documents to locate historic mines.
The Marange diamond field, close to Mutare in the east of the country, remains an area of contention. Although the diamond areas are heavily guarded, there are regular ingressions into the area by illegal, armed operators.