KINSHASA — At least 60 miners are believed to have died in a mine shaft collapse in a remote northeastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The accident is in an area that officials say is controlled by an armed rebel group.
The accident happened on Monday at Pangoyi in Orientale Province, Mambassa district.
An official at the mines ministry in Kinshasa, Valery Mukasa, said they have heard that at least 60 miners died. He said he did not know if there were any survivors or any people trapped alive in the mine, but a rescue mission had been sent to find out.
He said people are going there with the help of the provincial authorities, but the mine is in the middle of a forest and access is very difficult. He said the journey might take two days.
A local administrator in Mambassa territory, Faustin Brakana, said there might be at least one survivor of the accident. Mukasa said the mines ministry, though, had no specific information about survivors. He said the authorities don't have full control of the area and access is very difficult.
Local officials say the miners were digging illegally for gold in shafts up to 100 meters underground. By law their shafts are not supposed to be deeper than 30 meters
Hundreds of thousands of people in eastern Congo make a living in non-industrial mines, where there have been numerous accidents.
According to Mukasa, safety precautions are observed at the mines under government control. He said this gold mine, however, is in an area controlled by a rebel group led by a warlord known as Morgan. Morgan reportedly was captured last week, but escaped after a few days.
Armed groups across eastern Congo make use of gold, in particular, to fund their activities because it is easier to smuggle than other commodities.