Fifteen artisanal miners who were trapped underground for three days after a mine shaft collapsed at Redwing Mine in Penhalonga, Manicaland province, miraculously emerged alive after burrowing their way to the surface.

According to witnesses, the rescue teams deployed at the site did very little to assist the victims since last week because the ground was still unstable.

Speaking from Tsapauta site, where the shaft collapsed, Centre for Research Development director James Mupfumi said the artisanal miners found their way out and emerged from a crack in the ground.

“These people found their way because rescue missions were afraid, which is understandable because the area is currently shaky and unstable,” Mupfumi said.

“The artisanal miners said they walked for close to one kilometre up to the surface. They came through a crack.”

Centre for Natural Resources Governance director Farai Maguwu weighed in saying the miners emerged from the ground while the rescue teams were conducting a meeting on how best they could retrieve the trapped miners.

“There was no rescue mission which happened, if truth be told. The miners found their way out on their own. There was a meeting by government officials at the site and this is the time they were alerted (that) some of the miners had made it to the surface,” he said.

Penhalonga Youth Development Trust director Clinton Musanga witnessed the first three artisanal miners emerging from the ground.

“Three artisanal miners came without any assistance, they dug their way to the surface alone. They then alerted rescue missions who used a rope to assist the other miners to the surface,” Masanga said.

Government initially said only 11 miners were trapped underground.

Mines minister Soda Zhemu, who was at the site as the rescue team helped in the miners’ final escape, expressed delight that all the trapped miners were alive and well.

Meanwhile, it was jubilation time for Elizabeth Zhou who had four relatives trapped underground, including her son.

Zhou had travelled all the way from Gwanda after hearing the news of the mine shaft.