Wednesday 26 June 2013

Thirty seven dead after collapse at gold mine in the Central African Republic.

Thirty seven people are known to have died and dozens more to have been injured in a collapse at the Ndassima Gold Mine on Sunday 23 June 2013, following heavy rains. It is feared that many more bodies may be burried at the site. The mine was formerly operated by the Canadian company Axmin Mining, but operations were suspended in 2009  over safety concerns, following an incident that killed 16 miners. 

Bodies recovered from the Ndassima Gold Mine. National Turk.

Plans to re-open the mine officially were suspended in March this year following the overthrow of the French-backed government of François Bozizé, and the instillation of a new regime under Michel Djotodia, a former rebel leader. The site had been occupied by artisanal miners, technically illegally, though the government has been clear that it understands these activities to be driven by poverty, and declared a three day period of national mourning for the deceased miners. Axmin has expressed sadness at the deaths of the miners, but has underlined that it feels the deathes were the result of illegal and unregulated mining, and indicated a willingness to work with the new government to resume control of the site.

The Ndassima mine is an open pit mine, and the collapse is effectively a landslide brought on by rainfall. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall.

The Central African Republic has significant reserves of percious minerals, including gold, diamonds, oil and uranium, but long term political instability and poor infrastructure has ensured that these bring little benefit to the nation, which is one of the poorest in Africa with a pre capita income of less than US$300 per year.

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