Last month saw small-scale miners in Tanzania devasted by floods in the tanzanite mines near the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. At least 70 miners died in the flooding, with national response hampered by power cuts due to the storms.
AFP reports that Tanzanite was discovered in the 60s, and the mining industry resembles the unregulated atmosphere of a gold-rush town, with brothels, bars and hardware stores supplying the miners. Small-scale miners only get food rations from their employers and are paid only if they hit tanzanite. Some of them work months without pay, and many dig in highly unsafe and unstable mines using primitive tools and garden implements.
According to Reuters, mining disasters are not uncommon in northern Tanzania. Miners sometimes die in explosions or due to suffocation, such as in 2002, when at least 48 miners were suffocated when a compressor used to pump clean air into the gemstone mine failed.