Two people have now been confirmed dead, and it is feared that as many as sixty more may be missing following a collapse at a mine in Grand Cape Mount County, Liberia, on Tuesday 5 May 2020. The mine is located in a remote area known for its gold resources, and has been described as 'artisanal' (dug by local people using traditional methods) in nature.
The approximate location of the Grand Cape Mount mine collapse. Google Maps.
Artisanal mining is widespread in Liberia and Sierra Leone. It is often referred to as 'illicit', though in an area with little formal employment this is somewhat unfair, with local people viewing small scale mining as a traditional way of gaining some hard cash. The area is covered by poorly consolidated alluvial (river) sediments, washed out from the mineral rich Fouta Djallon Highlands, in neighbouring Guinea, since the last ice age. These loose sediments can be excavated and panned to produce small amounts of gold and diamonds. This can be a dangerous task, as sediments close to the surface are likely to have been worked by previous generations of villagers, requiring deeper pits to be dug into the, often waterlogged, sediments, with the accompanying risk of pit collapses.
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