Blanket Mine has reported its first fatal accident in three million hours, its Jersey-headquartered parent, Caledonia Mining Corporation said on Tuesday, only a week after saying it was “proud” of its safety record.
Last week, Caledonia chief executive officer Steve Curtis told journalists in Harare that the firm had clocked almost three million accident-free hours at the aggressively expanding operation.
In a statement, Caledonia said the accident involved a load, haul and dump (LHD) loader in one of the mine’s underground haulages.
“It is with regret that Caledonia Mining Corporation plc confirms that an accident took place on the morning of February 21, 2022 at the Blanket Mine in Zimbabwe, as a result of which one Blanket employee, Andrew Clydon Phiri (aged 35), was killed,” the statement said.
“The accident involved a LHD loader in one of Blanket’s underground haulages,” Caledonia added, saying it would release more details of the accident in due course.
Most of Zimbabwe’s gold mines are fairly old, but in recent years, the rate of accidents has declined because safety records have been boosted by new technologies.
In his address last week, Curtis said apart from Blanket, the firm was pressing ahead with plans to increase the number of its assets.
Chief finance officer Mark Learmonth said Caledonia had narrowed its search for fresh Zimbabwean projects to seven goldfields after combing through over 30 assets.
The strategy was part of a broad ambition under which it plans to pounce on more gold mines, following significant expansion at Blanket, where it projects to lift output to 80 000 ounces (oz) this year.
With a US$30 million war chest at the end of September, Caledonia sits on strong ground to swing as it sees fit, and take over assets of its desire.
Learmonth said the firm was determined to transform into a multi-asset firm with capacity to extract 500 000oz.
“We are looking to invest more money for growth,” he said.
“We have looked at over 30 assets and we have narrowed this to seven,” he added.
The first phase of Caledonia’s expansion kicked off with a US$70 million new shaft development that was completed last year.
Central Shaft, which helped the firm lift output last year, was this week described by Learmonth as a “first world piece of engineering”.
“A first world piece of engineering has been constructed in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe should be proud of this,” he said