By Jorge Joaquim
Two informal miners died on 17 and 20 January following the collapse of a small-scale mine in the Montepuez Ruby Mining (MRM) concession area in Montepuez district, Cabo Delgado province.
The continued unnecessary loss of human life is the result of unsafe practices by illegal miners who are usually supervised or coerced by illegal gemstone smuggling unions, financed by foreign traders operating in the region.
“MRM believes that garimpeiros are exploited by illegal ruby smuggling syndicates, usually financed by foreign buyers,” said a company statement. The actors behind these syndicates “pay only a fraction of the real market value of rubies that are obtained illegally from the mine and other sources”, it added.
Despite the awareness campaigns it has carried out, informal mining is still “a huge challenge,” MRM said, and deprived the country of tax revenues from mineral resources.
MRM’s chairman Samora Machel Júnior asked the government for help, saying that the company was unable to control the problem by itself. Informal mining is also a highly dangerous activity..
In 2020, at least 25 people, mostly men and young people from other countries or distant villages, died during illegal and unsafe mining activities in MRM’s concession, often buried when the mines collapsed.