Several miners were killed on Thursday after part of a copper mine collapsed in southeastern DR Congo, Swiss-based mining giant Glencore said.
The incident happened when two galleries caved in at a mine in the Kolwezi area operated by Kamoto Copper Company (KCC), a subsidiary of Glencore.
“Tragically there were 19 fatalities today, with possible further unconfirmed fatalities,” Glencore said in a statement, which said there had been recurrent problems with illicit mining on its concessions.
More than three dozen people may still be trapped at the site in the Bolaang Mongondow region of North Sulawesi, where some five miners were killed in December after an illegal gold mine accident.
The mineral-rich Southeast Asian nation has scores of unlicensed mining sites and safety regulations are routinely flouted.
Some of the still-buried victims were responding to rescuers’ calls but it was not clear how many were still alive.
Ground conditions at the mine were unstable due to a large number of holes dug by the miners, officials said.
“We still have hope. When we called them they still responded from down there, asking for help,” local disaster agency official Abdul Muin Paputungan said.
“We can’t use heavy machinery because the location is very steep… it could endanger the victims,” Paputungan said.
Rescuers were trying to get water to the buried miners but feared a wrong move could make the situation worse.
“There are a lot of challenges because the rocks that fell are in a very dangerous position,” Paputungan said.
“We’re trying to be extra careful.”
Local hospital chief Wahdiana Mantang said nine patients had been released after the accident and several others were being treated for injuries.
“They’re suffering from lacerations, gashes and some have broken bones,” she added.
Environmentalists called on local officials to enforce regulations and safety measures in response to the accident.
“We predicted this was going to happen,” said Theo Runtuwene, a local director for the Indonesian Forum for the Environment.
“The area is mountainous and (miners) dug holes there, which is extremely risky… There are dozens of sites in North Sulawesi where the ground is very unstable, especially during the rainy season,” he added.
In 2016, 11 miners died after a mudslide engulfed an illegal gold mine in Sumatra’s Jambi province.
A year before, 12 people were killed when a shaft collapsed after they tunnelled into a disused gold mine on Java island.
An accident at an eastern Rwanda mine on Monday killed 14 people, including seven women, a local government official said.
“This is an unfortunate event that nobody expected. The accident happened when falling debris at the mining site buried all the 14 people and killed them instantly,” Jean Claude Rwagasana, the official from the Mwulire region told AFP.
He added that rescuers arrived shortly after the incident but could find no survivors. Seven women were among those killed.
The accident took place at a cassiterite mine, a mineral which, along with coltan, is a vital component for the production of phones, digital cameras and electronic products.
Deadly accidents at Rwanda’s mines are not uncommon, with 27 miners killed in 2017, government statistics show.
Last October, eight people were killed and four wounded in a mine collapse in southern Rwanda’s Muhanga district.
Rwanda’s mining board has blamed the industry for the deaths, saying many mines’ underground tunnels lack support and that firms are slow to implement safety standards.