At least 30 people are feared dead, after an illegal gold mine collapsed in Chad, officials said Thursday.
Defence Minister, Mahamat Abali Salah told reporters the mine caved in early Tuesday in a zone beset by illegal mining at Kouri Bougoudi, near the Libyan border.
There were “many deaths, for sure,” Salah said.
“A mine collapsed. I cannot say exactly how many fatalities there are but there are many people working in these mines, so there must be many deaths, for sure,” Salah told reporters by telephone.
An army officer who requested anonymity spoke of “around 30 deaths,” basing the figure on witness accounts with the army yet to arrive on the scene which is in a remote small town.
A local lawmaker spoke for his part of “a dozen deaths,” basing his tally on what witnesses had related to him.
“I cannot give you an exact tally as we rushed troops to the scene this morning,” said Salah, saying he expected a report during the morning.
The Tibesti region where the accident occurred is a largely lawless one and home to various gangs and traffickers seeking to profit from a gold rush.
Clashes in January between rival groups of miners left “dozens” dead, according to security and mining sources after fighting between groups of Arabs from Libya and miners from Chad’s Ouaddai community, the sources said.
Kouri Bougoudi has itself been the scene of clashes among rival ethnic, local and foreign groups since 2012 and 2013 after the discovery of gold deposits there.
The Chadian government has authorised mining companies to exploit the deposits but rights groups accuse authorities of using Arab fighters to orchestrate a takeover of the area.
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