KHARTOUM – Around 100 miners are estimated to have died inside a collapsed gold mine in Sudan’s Darfur region, and nine of the rescuers trying to free them have become trapped as well, a miner said Friday.
“Nine of the rescue team disappeared when the land collapsed around them” on Thursday said the miner, who had visited the scene.
The unlicensed desert gold mine in the Jebel Amir district, more than 200 km northwest of El-Fasher, the capital of North Darfur state, began to cave in Monday.
The stench of death is now seeping out of the baked earth, the miner said. “Yesterday (Thursday) eight bodies have been found and still they are looking for the others,” he said. “According to a count by people working in the mine, the number of people inside is more than 100.”
On Thursday, the Jebel Amir district chief, Haroun al-Hassan, said “the number of people who died is more than 60,” but added it was unclear whether anyone might still be alive.
He said rescuers were using hand tools out of fear that machinery would cause a further collapse, but the ground fell around some of them anyway.
Production from unofficial gold mines has become a key revenue source for the cash-strapped government in Khartoum. It is also a tempting but dangerous occupation for residents of Sudan’s poverty-stricken western region of Darfur, which has been devastated by a decade of civil war.
A humanitarian source said earlier this year that close to 70,000 people were digging for gold in Jebel Amir.
Sudan is trying to boost exports of the precious metal and other nonpetroleum products after the separation of South Sudan two years ago stripped Khartoum of three-quarters of its crude oil production.
The lost oil used to account for most of Sudan’s export earnings and half of its fiscal revenues, sending inflation above 40 percent while its currency plunged in value on the black market.
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