The Presidency of Central African Republic has confirmed that the casualties now number 37 of mine workers who died in a recent gold mine collapse and has expressed fear that the toll could continue to rise.
In a statement released on Monday, the presidency said, “More bodies could not be found. There is a possibility of the death toll rising.”
A spokesman for the Presidency, Proper Ndouba talked to Xinhua (which is part of the Kenyan National Media Group) and explained, “It was a small-scale mine exploited by a company that was seeking to set up its industrial equipment. This could have contributed to the unfortunate incident that took place.”
Ndouba also said that all the victims were of, local, Central African Republic nationality and he also stated that many other workers were injured in the accident. Spokesman went on to way that the mining site is located at Ndassima in Bambari region which is 440 km east of the capital Bangui. It is a mineral rich area, that is has a large amount of gold and iron ore.
The mine collapsed on Sunday because of heavy torrential rains. So far a total of 37 bodies have recovered from the scene of the accident. But according to national radio the toll could be higher, taking into account statements from eyewitnesses.
Central African Republic’s President Michel Djotodia has sent his condolences to the 37 families of the fatally injured mine workers and he has declared a three day state of national mourning with flags being flown at half mast from Tuesday. The president may extend the mourning period if more casualties are found at the collapsed mine.
According to sources the small autonomous country has a poor record in the area of human rights. A 2009 Human Rights Report by the United States Department of State noted that, overall the CAR’s human rights record remained poor. Concerns were expressed over numerous government abusive practices. It was reported that freedom of speech is part of the country’s constitution, but there have been many incidents where the government has stepped in to limit media criticism.
A report by the International Research & Exchanges Board’s media sustainability index stated that “the country minimally met objectives, with certain segments of the legal system and government opposed to a free media system”.
The U.S. State Department claims that major human rights abuses continue to occur in the country. These include, extrajudicial executions by security forces, torture; the beating and rape of suspects and prisoners; legal impunity, particularly among the armed forces; harsh and life-threatening conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest and detention, prolonged pretrial detention and denial of a fair trial; restrictions on freedom of movement; official corruption; and restrictions on workers’ rights.
The State Department report also found evidence of widespread mob violence that often results in fatalities; the prevalence of female genital mutilation; discrimination against women and Pygmies; trafficking in persons; forced labor and child labor. Freedom of movement is limited in the northern part of the country “because of actions by state security forces, armed bandits, and other nonstate armed entities” and due to fighting between government and anti-government forces, many persons have been internally displaced.
The country boasts huge mineral potential, with at least 470 different minerals identified. Despite the presence of all these mineral, mining has always been done on a small scale and has been concentrated exclusively on diamonds and gold.
Since the country gained its independence in 1960, there have been numerous coups with warring factions attempting to control the countries rich resources. The last coup took place in March when Djotodia led his forces to overthrow Francois Bozize.
Speaking 10 days ago in the Gabonese capital Libreville at a summit of the Central African Economic and Monetary Community (CEMAC), Djotodia stated that, “After several months of conflict and looting, security was progressively returning to the country.”
As they continue to search the collapsed mine, the casualties could exceed the 37 found so far. It appears that finding more fatalities is an unfortunate likelihood.
By Michael Smith