Fourteen miners are known to have died following an explosion at a gold mine in the Siguiri region of northeaster Guinea Conakry on the evening of Tuesday 19 November 2013, and it is believed that around twenty five have lost their lives in total. The mine fell within the area of a concession granted to the Ashanti Goldfields Corporation, but is understood to have been operated artisanally (informal, unregulated mining seldom featuring any form of heath and safety procedures).
The approximate location of the Siguiri gold mine. Google Maps.
Gas explosions typically occur in mines when miners hit pockets of methane (CH₄), a highly flammable gas that is given off by coal under pressure. Typically when a seam containing pressurized gas is cut into it bursts, releasing the pressure and throwing large blocks of coal into the faces of the miners, often with fatal results. Thus although the gas involved is flammable it does not actually need to ignite to cause fatalities. In this instance the explosion appears to have resulted in the collapse of a number of shafts between 20 and 25 m bellow the surface.
Guinea is considered to have some of the largest gold reserves in Africa, as well as large reserves of bauxite (aluminium ore), iron and diamonds, but poor infrastructure and political instability has led to little outside investment in the country until fairly recently. The country is extremely underdeveloped and most of its population is extremely poor. This leads to a situation whereby artisanal mining, while technically illegal, is tolerated by the authorities, often leading to complaints of weak property laws by foreign companies operating in the country.
See also Human Rights Watch reports on child labour in the Tanzanian gold mining industry, Amnesty International reports on the mining industry in Katanga Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, At least 20 miners killed in North Kivu mine collapse, Over 60 feared dead in Darfur gold mine collapse and Two Sierra Leonean artisanal miners killed by soil cave-in.
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