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Gold Mine Collapses Kill More Than 100 People

Gold Mines Collapse

When gold and diamond miners die on the job, deliberate violence is very often the cause. In Zimbabwe and Angola, mining company security guards have been shooting and killing local diamond miners. In the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), gold miners work in the midst of a bloody civil war. But there is another very common way in which miners can suddenly lose their lives – and that’s when the mines they work in collapse.


Recent news stories from three different African countries demonstrate how serious a problem this is. The BBC reported last week that a gold mine collapse in the DRC killed at least 20 people. The miners were almost 100 feet below ground when the tunnel above them collapsed due to heavy rain. Last month in Ghana, a gold mine collapse took at least 16 lives. The miners were working in abandoned gold mine that caved in unexpectedly. Additionally, in the Darfur region of Sudan, a gold mine collapse earlier this month killed about 100 people.


These accidents are not unusual. Reports of mine collapses appear in the news with alarming frequency, such as this gold mine collapse in the DRC in 2012 or this collapse in Ghana in 2010. And these reports don’t capture the entire problem. Many deaths never make international news. A government minister in Ghana recently stated that over 300 people in his country probably died in mining accidents over a two-year time span between 2011 and 2012.


Although people have always died in these sorts of mine collapses, we suspect that the problem has gotten a lot worse lately. The high price of gold during the past few years has attracted more and more people into artisanal gold mining – the kind of gold mining that relies on simple methods like panning in streams or digging makeshift mine shafts. Artisanal gold mining has long been dangerous. It is poorly regulated and miners often don’t take safety precautions. (It is also extremely bad for the environment because most artisanal miners rely on mercury, a toxic substance, to isolate gold.)  But the influx of new gold miners – there may now be as many as 15 million artisanal gold miners worldwide – has multiplied the chances of accidents occurring.


In Ghana, another factor seems to be contributing to the mine collapses. Many of the gold miners dying in accidents are Chinese nationals who have come to Ghana to try to strike it rich. The fact that many of these miners do not have legal status gives them an incentive to mine without government approval, which means they are not subject to safety regulations. In addition, some of the miners come to Ghana with capital to finance their operations – which may increase the amount of mining they can do and possibly the overall chances of accidents.


Any death tied to gold or diamond mining – whether due to violence or a workplace accident – is a needless tragedy. Unfortunately, eliminating these accidents won’t be easy. In the DRC and Sudan, the governments are weak and corrupt. (Eastern DRC is in a civil war so the government isn’t even fully in control.) Ghana’s government is better positioned to enforce stricter safety regulations. President John Mahama last week announced that his government will clamp down on illegal mining. But better enforcement carries its own risks, such as the risk of violence against illegal miners.


In spite of all this, we still have hope. We know from experience that jewelry can be produced without causing great harm to people or the environment. (We use only recycled precious metals in our own jewelry and obtain our diamonds from ethical sources that follow strict labor and environmental standards.) We also believe that by raising consumer awareness and building consumer demand for ethical jewelry, governments and the mining industry over the long term will make it a bigger priority to ensure that all mines are safe.



Meredith McGee Says:
June 25th, 2013 at 8:06 am

How can this kind of oppression exist in our modern society? This is bloody and economic slavery! This is an example that “Money is the root of evil.”

Olga Says:
June 27th, 2013 at 11:14 am

People need to sustain themselves in order to survive. There are TOO MANY PEOPLE in the world and NOT ENOUGH work/jobs to sustain them! This is just another job. Money is NOT the root of evil. Television is more like it and mankind is behind everything. Maybe if women ruled the world, there would be less evil.

O. Ryan Faust Says:
July 4th, 2013 at 9:32 am

At least quote correctly. It’s the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil.

If the negligent party isn’t prosecuted, the governments in Zimbabwe and Angola aren’t doing their job.

Carl Campbell Says:
July 6th, 2013 at 8:27 am

Spiritual beings in love with material riches that remains behind at end of our human existence. Why does it makes sense to any?

Michael Says:
July 7th, 2013 at 6:12 am

Yes sir O. Ryan Faust. Also, Miss Olga, neither men or women rule the world. Men & women serve the RULER.

Boo Says:
July 7th, 2013 at 10:20 am

Whatever system of trade that is developed can become the cause of greed. So whether it is money or whatever else you can create to use for trade, there will always be greedy and evil people that will want it. So I agree with Ryan Faust that it is the LOVE of money but you also have to add that it is the LOVE of money by EVIL people that is the root of all evil. In our modern human civilization money is the currency of trade so whether you admit it or not we all would love to have more money to take care of our loved ones. It does not make us evil.

G Feher Says:
July 8th, 2013 at 5:45 am

Money and Love of money may be the root of all evil but LACK of money is a real contender. BTW Meredith economic slavery exists everywhere, just ask any woman in the United States.

Maddie Says:
July 9th, 2013 at 4:33 am

People have to eat. To eat, they needs something to buy food with, like a gold nugget or two. Anyone see the movie, Black Diamond? There are no precautionary controls on these vast holes in the ground. The ‘miners’ have no hardhats, no shoes and are on property illegally. They are in fact, illegals. Still they work the leftovers for whatever crumbs may fall into their hands. Sometimes they work too late and the monsoons start, undermining their holes. The ground collapses on them. It’s called poverty and will always exist somewhere. Africa is a natural ‘gold mine’ for such activities. Legitimate companies and governments cannot stop them. No one can stop them and they won’t stop mining the glory holes that are left behind. It’s life and survival. It’s worth the risk to them. It’s work and the earth pays them back one way or another.

Zabes Says:
July 10th, 2013 at 8:33 am

Pride and/or greed. Which of these, if not both, come before the fall? Is that not found in the Bible?

Carl Says:
July 10th, 2013 at 10:17 am

Hi Meredith,

“Money”, is NOT the root of all evil. The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.

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