More than 70 are dead after an unregulated gold mine collapsed in Mali, an official says

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — An official in Mali says more than 70 people are dead after an unregulated gold mine collapsed late last week, and a search continues amid fears the toll could rise.

Karim Berthé, a senior official at the government’s National Geology and Mining Directorate, confirmed the details to The Associated Press on Wednesday and called it an accident.

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It was not immediately clear what caused the collapse that occurred on Friday and was reported on Tuesday in a Ministry of Mines statement that estimated “several” miners dead. The collapse occurred in Kangaba district in the southwestern Koulikoro region.

Such accidents are common in Mali, Africa’s third-largest gold producer. Artisanal miners — small-scale, informal ones — are often accused of ignoring safety measures, especially in remote areas.

“The state must bring order to this artisanal mining sector to avoid these kinds of accidents in the future,” Berthé said.

The Ministry of Mines statement “deeply regretted” the collapse and urged miners as well as communities living near mining sites to “comply with safety requirements.”

In recent years, there have been concerns that profits from unregulated mining in northern Mali could benefit Islamic extremists active in that part of the country.

The region of this latest collapse, however, is far to the south of that and closer to the capital, Bamako.

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“Gold is by far Mali’s most important export, comprising more than 80% of total exports in 2021,” according to the International Trade Administration with the U.S. Department of Commerce. It says more than two million people, or over 10% of Mali’s population, depend on the mining sector for income.

The Ministry of Mines has estimated that the country has 800 tons in gold deposits.

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