NEWS: Burkina Faso
59 people die after explosion near gold mine.

An explo­sion near a gold min­ing site in south­west­ern Burk­i­na Faso killed 59 peo­ple and injured more than 100 others.

Accord­ing to wit­ness­es and the nation­al tele­vi­sion sta­tion, the explo­sion, which occurred Mon­day, was caused by chem­i­cals used to process gold stored at the site.

The pro­vi­sion­al toll was pro­vid­ed by region­al author­i­ties fol­low­ing the explo­sion in the vil­lage of Gbomblo­ra, RTB reported.

“I saw bod­ies every­where. It was hor­ri­ble,” Sansan Kam­bou, a for­est ranger who was at the scene of the explo­sion, told The Asso­ci­at­ed Press by phone.

The first explo­sion occurred at about 2 p.m., fol­lowed by oth­er explo­sions as peo­ple ran for their lives, he said.

Gold is the main­stay of Burk­i­na Faso’s econ­o­my, top­ping its export list. The coun­try is Africa’s fastest-grow­ing gold pro­duc­er and its fifth-largest. The indus­try, which was worth about $2 bil­lion in 2019, employs about 1.5 mil­lion people.

Small­er gold mines like Gbomblo­ra have sprung up in recent years, with some 800 across the coun­try. Much of the gold is smug­gled to neigh­bor­ing Togo, Benin, Niger and Ghana, accord­ing to the South Africa-based Insti­tute for Secu­ri­ty Studies.

The small-scale mines are also report­ed­ly used by armed groups linked to al-Qae­da and EIIL (EIIL), which have staged attacks in the coun­try since 2016. The groups report­ed­ly raise funds by tax­ing min­ers and also use the min­ing sites to recruit. fight­ers and seek­ing refuge.

Min­ing experts say small mines have few­er reg­u­la­tions than indus­tri­al mines and can there­fore be more dangerous.

“The lim­it­ed reg­u­la­tion of the arti­sanal and small-scale min­ing sec­tor con­tributes to increased risks that can be very dan­ger­ous, includ­ing the use of explo­sives that are often smug­gled into the coun­try and used ille­gal­ly,” said Marce­na Hunter, senior ana­lyst at Glob­al Ini­tia­tive, a Switzer­land-based think tank.

Recent reports also sug­gest a recent trend of min­ing com­pa­nies in Burk­i­na Faso now trans­port­ing indige­nous staff and for­eign employ­ees by air rather than by road.

In Octo­ber 2019, armed groups attacked a gold min­ing site in the north of the coun­try, killing 20 peo­ple. A month lat­er, 37 civil­ians were killed and more than 60 injured when gun­men ambushed a con­voy car­ry­ing work­ers from Cana­di­an gold min­er Semafo.

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