Unsafe operating conditions in an unsanctioned gold mine have claimed at least 20 lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The accident occurred overnight at a mine in the South Kivu region of eastern DRC, worked by “illegal miners” according to the province’s mines minister.
Apollinaire Bulindi said the death toll is likely to rise “because many people were working in a disorderly way in this quarry,” the minister was quoted in Hindustan Times.
Mining deaths are common in the DRC, where there are many illegal mines and where gold extracted from them is used to finance rebel groups. Last year 15 people suffocated to death after a mine collapsed in southeast DRC, the publication notes.
Insurgents and elements of government forces in the DRC control some 65% of the country’s gold mines, which are the foundation for an international smuggling network worth an estimated $400 million a year, the ENOUGH Project said in a February update.
Much of the smuggled gold is sold to buying houses in Dubai, the report notes. In other cases, provincial authorities in South Kivu falsified documents to obscure the link between gold and non-validated mining sites, it says.
According to DRC government statistics, artisanal and small-scale mines (ASMs) produced 548.43 kg of gold last year, but the country’s Chamber of Mines said in February that as much as 400 kilograms of illegal gold leave South Kivu province alone every month.