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Rescue slows a week after Zimbabwe mine collapse

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Rain and flooding have slowed down rescue efforts at a Zimbabwean mine where a shaft collapsed last week, trapping at least 10 artisanal miners.

Hopes of finding survivors have been lost and relatives camped at the site on Tuesday expressed their desperation for decent burials of their loved ones who are now presumed dead.

The mine shaft in Bindura town, about 70 kilometres (about 43 miles) northeast of the capital, Harare, collapsed Wednesday after miners digging for gold blasted a support pillar, according to the country's deputy minister of mines, Polite Kambanura.

Rescuers retrieved one body on Monday, but rescue efforts had been hindered since the flooding, he said.

Kambanura said about 10 artisanal miners remained trapped under rubble and water.

However, an association representing small scale miners estimated 40 miners were trapped.

Ascertaining the actual number is difficult due to the haphazard nature of artisanal mining in the economically struggling southern African town.

Artisanal mining has been rampant in Zimbabwe for decades, but it has surged following the shutdown of most economic activities due to a COVID-19 induced lockdown, according to conservation groups that have been trying to get the government to end it.

Zimbabwe's mineral rich national parks, abandoned mines, rivers and even towns are often swarmed with people, including young children, seeking gold.

Violent and politically connected gangs often try to control the activities.

Police sometimes carry out raids on the mines following reports of widespread violence, but they have been unable to end the mining, or the violence.

The government says it plans to regulate artisanal mining to ensure safety standards and to absorb the thousands of miners, and their earnings, into the economy.