DAR ES SALAAM — The collapse of an illegal small-scale gold mine has killed at least 22 people in northern Tanzania following heavy rains, a senior government official said on Sunday.
The accident happened early on Saturday in the Simiyu region after a group of people aged between 24 and 38 years old started mining in an area where activity had been restricted due to ongoing heavy rains, Simon Simalenga, the region’s Bariadi district commissioner, told Reuters.
“Initially we were told that there were 19 to 20 people who were trapped in the mines but unfortunately we ended up retrieving 22 bodies,” he said, adding that the search and rescue operation was continuing although almost all the rubble that had buried them had now been removed.
Simalenga said the group had discovered an area rich in minerals around two to three weeks previously and moved to start mining before the government had approved physical and environmental safety and procedures.
“The regional mining officer visited them and stopped them from mining as it was working on the required procedures,” he said.
The group defied the order, he added, starting to mine late on Friday before part of the area caved in and buried them inside.
The government has worked for years to improve safety for small scale miners but unsafe and unregulated illegal mining still occurs in Tanzania, which is Africa’s fourth-largest gold producer after South Africa, Ghana and Mali.