Sixty dead in African mine collapse

At least sixty illegal miners have died in the Congo after a landslide caused a shaft collapse, burying them all.

The miners were working around 100 metres underground when there was a landslip, Reuters reports.

"It was deep in the forest, there was a landslide, at least 60 people have been killed," the Democratic Republic of Congo's provincial head of mines Simon Bolombo said.

According to Congo mines minster, Martin Kabwelulu, the miners were working at illegal depths, well past the 30 metre limit for small scale mining.

Rescue efforts have been hampered by local rebel groups, known as Mai Mai Morgan.

[The unnamed mine] is controlled by the rebels … There's almost total insecurity, it's difficult for us [to attempt a rescue]," Kabwelulu stated.

The Congo is the site of much illegal mining, with many of the minerals and metals used by rebel groups to fund their conflicts.

Congolese battlefields most commonly centre on areas rich in minerals, with mining helping maintain the power of rebels that use violence, child soldiers, and mass rape to intimidate and control local populations.

Advocacy groups like the Enough Project have identified smelters as the appropriate choke point for stopping the flow of conflict minerals, but experts are divided on whether it's the best approach.

Morehouse College assistant professor Laura Seay, a Texas-based academic and another leading voice on conflict minerals, told Australian Mining some of the current approaches to reducing violence in the DRC had been ineffective.

"Eastern Congo has been under a near-total de facto ban on mineral exports from the conflict areas since last April, when the Malaysia Smelting Corporation decided to stop buying Congolese minerals as it could not guarantee them to be conflict-free," she said.

"According to the UN, this ban has reduced the trade in conflict minerals, but we have also seen an uptick in smuggling and no reduction in violence."

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