More than 70 people killed in Mali gold mine collapse

More than 70 people have died after a gold mine collapsed in Mali, officials say.

A search is continuing in the West African country, which is among the world’s poorest countries and is a leading gold producer, and there are fears the death toll could rise.

Artisanal mining is a common activity across much of the region and has risen in recent years due to growing demand for metals and rising prices.

Deadly accidents are frequent because artisanal miners often use old-fashioned and unregulated methods of digging.

It was not immediately clear what caused the disaster at a site in the Kangaba Cercle in the southwestern Koulikoro region, but it happened on Friday when a shaft collapsed.

The government offered its “deepest condolences to the grieving families and to the Malian people”.

A spokesperson for the ministry, Baye Coulibaly, said via telephone on Wednesday that the death toll was still provisional.

“Gold panners have dug galleries without complying with the required standards, and we have advised them against it on several occasions in vain,” Mr Coulibaly said.

The ministry would be a sending a mission to the Kangaba area on Thursday to get more details on the accident, he added.

Karim Berthe, a senior official at the government’s National Geology and Mining Directorate, said the collapse had been an accident.

“The state must bring order to this artisanal mining sector to avoid these kinds of accidents in the future,” Mr Berthe said.

France24 reported an official as saying: “It started with a noise. The earth started to shake. There were over 200 gold miners in the field.

“The search is over now. We’ve found 73 bodies,” Oumar Sidibe, an official for gold miners in Kangaba.

The state’s Ministry of Mines said officials “deeply regretted” the collapse and urged miners as well as communities living near mining sites to “comply with safety requirements”.

According to ministry data, an estimated six tonnes of gold was produced in artisanal mines in Mali last year.

In recent years, there have been concerns that profits from unregulated mining in northern Mali could benefit Islamic extremists active in that part of the country.

The region of this latest collapse, however, is far to the south of that and closer to the capital, Bamako.

“Gold is by far Mali‘s most important export, comprising more than 80% of total exports in 2021,” according to the International Trade Administration with the US Department of Commerce.

It says more than two million people, or over 10 per cent of Mali‘s population, depend on the mining sector for income.

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