Skip to content

Residents of Hwange Live in Fear as Mining Firm Fails to Stop Raging Underground Blazes

Coal fires have become a major issue over the past five years in Zimbabwe’s Hwange, occurring regularly in various areas of the mining town. One blaze has been burning underground for 15 years. Hwange Colliery Company Limited (HCCL) is based in Hwange in southwestern Zimbabwe. Residents of the town, with a population of about 40,000, are living in fear as the company has failed to fence off coal sites and take measures to put out the blazes. Greater Whange Residents Trust (GWRT) Coordinator Fidelis Chima said underground and surface fires killed two children in recent years and injured more than a dozen people. He accused the company of not taking the threat seriously. Across the globe, hundreds of fires burn low and slow on dirty fuel beneath the earth, some smouldering for decades, according to Global Forest Watch, an open-source monitor. “These fires are known as coal seam fires. They occur underground when a layer of coal in the Earth’s crust is ignited. Due to the out-of-sight nature of the fires, they are often hard to detect at first, and even harder to extinguish,” Global Forest Watch said. Mines and Mining Development Minister Winston Chitando visited a site where a road was ripped apart by the coal fires and promised that Hwange Colliery Company was putting in place measures to deal with the problem.