Posted: ’08-JAN-07 19:00′ GMT – – Archive

Recovery efforts continued this week near the town of Tshikapa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), following a cave-in at a pit mined by artisanal miners on Friday.

Authorities from western Kasai region said Monday that rescuers had retrieved 13 bodies and at least 30 people were still unaccounted for. There was great concern that the death toll could rise as the rescue operations continued.

Eddy Musangilay, a reporter of the DRC daily Observers, was quoted by China’s Xinhua News Agency as saying that more than 100 local residents were digging for diamonds as the pit collapsed. He said dozens of people could have been killed and the number of missing could exceed 100.

Tshikapa’s mayor Albert Mutombo was quoted in press reports earlier saying there had been illegal mining activities in the area and that an investigation is underway into the cause of the accident.

Authorities suspected that loose earth caused by illegal mining activities, compounded by heavy rains in recent days, might have resulted in the cave-in.

“We’ve had heavy rains since the beginning of December,” Jean Mubikayi Kabengo, a local government official, was quoted as saying by Reuters. He said the rainfall had saturated the ground near the mines, increasing the risks for those working in the pits.

“This is a diamond area,” he was quoted as saying. “Anyone who wants to earn their bread has to dig.”

The DRC is rich in mineral resources, including gold, diamonds, non-ferrous metals and rare metals. Mining accidents are a common occurrence in the country due to illegal mining activities and neglect of safety rules.

The country has however been ravaged by decades of mismanagement and a five-year civil war that killed some four million people, mostly from hunger and disease worsened by the fighting.

Most mining infrastructure has been pillaged or destroyed.

Primitive pit mining is often one of the few ways impoverished Congolese can make a living, and cave-ins are frequent.

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