Friday 5 April 2013

Two Sierra Leonean artisanal miners killed by soil cave-in.

Two artisanal miners reportedly died in a soil cave-in near Sagbe and Futigiaya villages in Kono District, eastern Sierra Leone, on Thursday, 4 April 2013. Their bodies have been taken to Koidu General Hospital.

The area where the two miners died on 4 April 2012. Google Maps.

Artisanal mining is widespread in eastern Sierra Leone. It is often referred to as 'illicit', though in a country 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.

An artisanal mine at Tumbodu, to the northeast of the one where the 4 April cave-in occurred. Simon Akam/Reuters.

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