At least 50 people are thought to have died when an artisanal gold mine collapsed near Kamituga in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday afternoon, a local mining NGO said.
The cave-in occurred on the “Detroit” mine site at around 3pm local time following heavy rains, said Emiliane Itongwa, president of the Initiative of Support and Social Supervision of Women.
“Several miners were in the shaft which was covered and no one could get out. We are talking about 50 young people,” Itongwa said.
Photos and videos on social media showed hundreds of people, some of whom could be heard wailing on a hillside around the mine-shaft entrance.
The mine was not located on the Kamituga gold concession owned by Canadian miner Banro Corporation, the company’s chief executive said.
Mining accidents are common in unregulated artisanal mines in Congo, with dozens of deaths every year in mines where often ill-equipped diggers borrow deep underground in search for ore.
A landslide at a disused gold mine killed 16 in October last year, while 43 illegal miners died in another landslide at a copper and cobalt mine in June 2019.
The June 2019 accident occurred in the KOV open-pit mine at the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) concession, in which Glencore subsidiary Katanga Mining owns a 75% stake, said Richard Muyej, the governor of Democratic Republic of Congo’s Lualaba province.
“It was caused by the clandestine artisanal diggers who have infiltrated (the mine),” he told Reuters. “The old terraces gave way, causing significant amounts of material to fall.”
“KOV is a delicate site and presents many risks,” he added.
In October 2019 it was reported at least 21 were killed after a collapse at an illegal gold mine in Congo, reports BBC.
According to civil society campaigner Justin Kyanga Asumani, “dozens of people, including children and pregnant women” were on the site when the accident occurred.