Friday 4 October 2019

Collapse at illegal gold mine in the Democratic Republic of Congo now known to have killed at least 22 people.

At least 22 people have died in a collapse at an unlicensed gold mine at Kampene in Maniema Province, Democratic Republic of Congo. The incident happened at about 2.00 pm local time on Wednesday 2 October 2019, when a large number of people were digging in the open pit mine, including pregnant women and children, with local reports saying that at least two women are among the dead. Initial reports that only twelve people had died have been raised after more bodies were found and some of those being treated in hospital for their injuries died. The mine had reportedly been operating for arbour ten years, with local authorities either unaware of it or turning a blind eye to its existence. The provincial government in Maniema has agreed to pay for the hospital treatment of the survivors and the funerals of those who died.

An illegal gold mine at Kampene in Maniema Province, Democratic Republic of Congo, where at least 22 people died in a collapse on 2 October 2019. 24HCongo.

The Democratic Republic of Congo one of the world's largest producer of precious metals, but benefits little from the industry. The country has suffered years of political instability and has extremely poor infrastructure, is heavily indebted and has a chronic corruption problem, which means that little of the wealth generated from the industry makes it into government coffers, and that which does is unlikely to be spent on development or other projects likely to benefit the population. These problems are made worse by a series of conflicts in the area, which plays host to rebel groups opposed to the Congolese government and militiamen that fled the 1994 conflict in Rwanda and have never returned. In addition the area has suffered incursions from several neighbouring countries, mostly with an official purpose of defending borders against Congo's instability, but with a strong interest in the coltan industry. Militia groups linked to neighbouring states also operate in the area, and again are said to be involved in illegal mining.

The lack of government control of the area, and low regard for human life held by many of the groups operating in the area, means that safety precautions at mines in the area are almost non-existent, with many mines simply being large holes dug into poorly consolidated sediments. The area suffers extremely high levels of rainfall (it is the source from which the Congo, Nile and Zambesi rivers originate), and mines can rapidly turn into death-traps as their sides turn to mud and collapse upon the miners.

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