Sudan Gold Mine Collapse: 100 Feared Dead

Around 100 miners are feared to have died when a gold mine collapsed in Sudan with another nine rescuers sent in to free them also trapped, a miner has said.

The rescuers went in to try to save those engulfed after the mine in Jebel Amir, Darfur, caved in on Monday.

They had attempted to reach dozens of men trapped at the bottom of a 40m deep well-shaft.

It was originally thought that about 60 were unaccounted for, but the latest estimate puts the number at nearly double that figure.

So far, it is understood that none have been brought out alive.

A miner, who asked to remain anonymous, told the AFP wire service that the situation looked grim.

The miner said: "Nine of the rescue team disappeared when the land collapsed around them. "(On Thursday) eight bodies have been found and still they are looking for the others.

"According to a count by people working in the mine, the number of people inside is more than 100."

The unlicensed gold mine is in the desert, more than 125 miles (200km) northwest of the North Darfur state capital El Fasher. It is about 500 miles (800km) west of the capital Khartoum.

Gold has become a key commodity for Sudan since the country split in two with the secession of the south of the country last year.

The gold mining takes place underground in a dry, arid region where the soils are often prone to structural failure.

Earlier in the week, rescuers said they could only use traditional tools as machines could cause a further collapse.

The Jebel Amir mine was fought over by rival groups in February.

Darfur was at the centre of a bitter power struggle in Sudan for many years with nomadic Arabs engaged in a civil war with black African farmers who claimed the land as their own.

The subsequent humanitarian crisis led to claims of ethnic cleansing as 2.7m people fled their homes to live in refugee camps.

Gold mining, despite its dangers, is one of the few ways that those living in Darfur can earn hard currency.

A humanitarian source said earlier this year that close to 70,000 people were digging for gold in Jebel Amir.

According to Reuters, Sudan hopes to increase gold production in 2013 up to 50 tons a year, putting it among the top 15 producers in the world.