Tanzanite mine flood

The tragedy of 1998, when torrential rains flooded several tanzanite mines and 100 to 200 miners (the exact number was never known) drowned, has recurred after almost exactly 10 years. Again heavy rainfalls were the cause, again dozens of miners lost their lives.

The disaster hit at the end of march. Rescue operations were severely hampered by electricity outages because several power poles had been felled by the storm. To make matters worse, there were not enough powerful waterpumps available in the area. Furthermore a number of tunnels are connected to each other in depths of up to 300m which makes it almost impossible to quickly pump out the water.

The unintentional conjunction of tunnels is every miner´s nightmare, as it leads to further destabilization of the bewildering maze of tunnels and shafts.

Two american colleagues, who independently ventured into two of the mines, had frightening things to tell. One descends several hundred feet down a perpendicular and utterly unsecured shaft via a narrow iron ladder or, as in one case, via a rope (!). From the shafts bottom tunnels, that are often less than 1m in diameter, lead to the face of the tunnel which often lies in depths beyond 300m.

One of the Americans was crawling down a 55cm tunnel on his knees, when he was met by several excited miners shouting at him to turn back as fast as possible because it was lunchbreak and the guys on the surface would stop blowing air into the tunnels...

Severe mine accidents are by no means rare in tanzanite mines. In 2002 39 miners died of carbon monoxide poisoning after an explosion and in the same year 48 miners suffocated when the compressor of an air pump malfunctioned.

On this occasion i would like to mention appreciatively, that TanzaniteOne, a company i have critized heavily for their marketing strategy, has spearheaded the rescue operations and was amongst the first to donate a large sum to the qickly established flood relief fund.