At least 50 miners lost their lives after a flooding incident inside an unregulated gold mine located in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), said a local official. The tragic accident is the latest in a series of deadly events that have ravaged illegal and small-scale mines in the region.
The majority of the victims were young individuals and were working inside the massive, unregulated mine on Friday. The incident began when water from a nearby river flowed through three tunnels after days of powerful rains.
Massive cave-in kills at least 50 miners
According to the Wall Street Journal, the provincial governor, Theo Kasi, said that at least 50 miners are believed to have died while working inside the mines when the tunnels caved in.
The World Bank revealed that about 90 percent of miners worldwide work in small-scale operations or are part of illegal work that trespass foreign-controlled lands, including bigger mining companies.
The workers who dig up the raw materials used in the production of cars and smartphones are frequently exposed to treacherous conditions with no safety regulations ensuring their well-being.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development estimates that about 20 percent of the new gold mined worldwide comes from illegal or small-scale mining operations.
At least 162 workers died in July when heavy torrential rains caused a landslide at a mine located in Myanmar, which is part of its mostly unregulated jade mining industry. Last June, about 30 miners lost their lives in the DRC when Glencore PLC, a commodities giant, suffered two collapsed tunnels.
Research by a lecturer in public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, Siddharth Kara, estimates that about 2,000 illegal miners lose their lives every year in the DRC despite the country not releasing data on its fatalities.
Social media users posted several photographs showing several hundred people gathered on a hillside around the mine-shaft entrance where the 50 miners were trapped and died, as reported by The Guardian.
Unregulated mining operations
The chief executive of the Canadia miner Banro Corporation said the mine was not located on the Kamituga gold concession that the company owned.
In the DRC, several dozen miners die every year due to accidents in unregulated mines because they have no sufficient protective equipment and are required to burrow deep underground searching for raw materials.
According to VOA News, the deputy mayor of Kamituga town, Alexandre Kamundala, revealed rescuers were not able to recover any of the miners so far. He added the rescue teams have been working since the morning but found it challenging due to a lack of working tools.
Kasi's office released a statement that said they would work on bringing more assistance and will implement protocols to avoid future indices from happening again.
An assistant professor at the University of Antwerp in Belgium, Sara Geenen, said that cave-ins and landslides are a common threat to miners in the region due to the lack of equipment other than rubber boots. She has previously researched the gold mines in Kamituga.
Geenen wrote that because Kamituga was an old town, the residents have honed their geological and technical expertise. However, she added that the people there do not have the financial capability or technological access to conduct mining operations properly.