The collapse of a mining shaft in south-west Mali has led to the deaths of more than 40 artisanal gold miners, Reuters reported.

The Mali mines ministry confirmed the incident, highlighting the dangers of unregulated and illegal mining, which is prevalent across West Africa.

The collapse occurred on Friday at a mining site within the Kangaba Cercle, located in the Koulikoro Region.

The mines ministry released a statement on Tuesday, which did not disclose the exact number of fatalities.

Baye Coulibaly, a spokesperson for the ministry, communicated via telephone on Wednesday that the death toll was still provisional and subject to confirmation.

The ministry has also announced plans to dispatch a mission to the Kangaba area on Thursday to gather further information regarding the accident.

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Artisanal mining is known for its rudimentary and often unregulated extraction methods. There has been an increase in such illegal mining activity due to the surge in metal demand and prices. Such practices frequently result in fatal accidents.

Mali’s artisanal mines, according to ministry data, produced an estimated six tonnes of gold last year. The recent accident underscores the urgent need for improved safety measures in the artisanal mining sector.

Earlier this month, 15 miners were trapped underground after a collapse at the Redwing mine around 270km from Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare, Reuters reported.  

The incident took place on 4 January and is believed to have been caused by earth tremors, as per the country’s ministry of mines and mining development.  

Zimbabwe has a history of mine accidents, including an incident last September at the Bay Horse mine in Chegutu, Mashonaland West province.

The mine collapsed, resulting in at least 34 miners being trapped underground, Reuters noted, quoting state television ZBC TV.