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More than 60 people killed in unlicensed Darfur gold mine collapse

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 3rd, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

More than 60 gold miners have been killed after an unlicensed mine collapsed in Darfur, Sudan. Rescue operations are now under way in Jebel Amir, more than 125 miles northwest of the state capital El Fasher. The area is on knowing terms with tragedy: Hundreds died in fighting over the precious metal over the months of January and February, the district chief said.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The number of people missing is not yet known after Monday's accident in the Jebel Amir District. Production from unofficial gold mines has become a key revenue source for Sudan's cash-strapped government.

Gold mining is a very attractive option for Darfur residents. Whose poverty-stricken western region has been devastated by a decade of civil war.

"The number of people who died is more than 60," Haroun al-Hassan, local commissioner for Jebel Amir said, adding that rescue operations were still taking place. "I cannot give exact figures because no one got precise numbers of how many people were going inside the tunnel," which descends 40 yards, he said.

Rescuers were using hand tools to try to reach the victims. "We cannot use machines because if they came near, the ground will collapse. People are using traditional tools and because of this, the rescue is very slow," Hassan said.

"I myself saw this land collapse. It started from Monday evening but the main collapse happened on Tuesday," a miner who works in a different part of the area said.

"Nobody takes the names of those who go inside. Only their colleagues or their relatives know where they are," the miner said, requesting anonymity.

Gold mining in Darfur comes with a very heavy price, as those who dare risk their lives - but may still come out empty-handed. "Sometimes you spend more than three or four weeks without getting anything," the miner said. "Other times you get gold that you can sell for 10,000 pounds ($1,590)".

One resident said he visited the remote site of the accident.

"The problem is that those small mines are so close together and if one of them falls it will affect the others. That is what happened in this mine. All the neighboring mines collapsed," he said, also declining to be named.

A humanitarian source said earlier this year that close to 70,000 people was digging for gold in Jebel Amir.

The African nation of Sudan is trying to boost exports of the rare metal and other non-petroleum products after the separation of South Sudan two years ago left Khartoum without three-quarters of its crude oil production.

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