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Mali gold mine collapse kills scores of workers

More than 70 people have been killed after a tunnel collapsed at a Malian gold mining site last week, local sources told AFP news agency, the latest disaster in a region prone to mining accidents.

“It started with a noise. The earth started to shake,” Oumar Sidibe, an official for gold miners in the southwestern town of Kangaba, told AFP on Wednesday, of the incident on Friday.

Gold mining sites are regularly the scene of deadly landslides and authorities struggle to control artisanal mining of the precious metal.

“There were over 200 gold miners in the field. The search is over now. We’ve found 73 bodies,” he said.

The same toll was given by a local councillor.

Mali’s Ministry of Mines in a statement on Tuesday had announced the death of several miners but did not give precise figures.

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

It also called on “communities living near mining sites and gold miners to scrupulously respect safety requirements and to work only within the perimeters dedica ted to gold panning”.

Dangerous business

Gold mining in the Sahel region is a dangerous business.

In February 2022, at least 59 people were killed in southwestern Burkina Faso after the explosion of a stockpile of dynamite at an artisanal gold mining site.

Mining accidents are also regularly reported in Guinea, Senegal and western Mali.

Mali produced 72.2 tonnes of gold in 2022 and the metal contributed 25 percent of the national budget, 75 percent of export earnings and 10 percent of GDP, the then minister of mines Lamine Seydou Traore said in March last year.

Since taking power in 2020, the military leaders in Mali have pledged to restore sovereignty and enable the country to benefit from its natural wealth.

It adopted a new mining code in August, enabling the state to take up to a 30-percent stake in new projects.

The government has said the move should bring in at least 500 billion CFA francs ($830 million) to the annual state budget.

Mali’s mining sector is dominated by foreign groups, including Canada’s Barrick Gold and B2Gold, Australia’s Resolute Mining and Britain’s Hummingbird Resources, which continue to operate despite the political instability that has plagued the country for years.

But artisanal mines also continue to flourish and attract thousands of gold miners.

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