At least 59 people have reportedly died in a series of explosions at a gold mine site in the village of Gbomblora, south of Burkina Faso.
According to reports, the blast which started around 2 pm might have been triggered by chemicals used for treating gold stocked at the site. Another report opined that the blast might have escalated because of the mine’s proximity with a market where illegal items such as cyanamide and dynamites are sold.
With a production capacity of over 62 metric tonnes of gold and a reserve capacity estimated to be about 154 metric tonnes, Burkina Faso is the fastest growing gold producer in Africa as well as the fifth-largest gold producing country in the continent.
The gold mines in the country are majorly run by international companies, but there are hundreds of smaller, informal and sometimes illegal sites that operate without oversight or regulation.
Small gold mines like Gbomblora have grown in recent years, with some 800 across the country, increasing chances of deadly explosions like the recent one.
Speaking on the force of the explosion, a judicial source visiting the site to assess the damage said the explosion ‘Uprooted trees and brought down houses”.
“This is a traditional gold panning site. The miners come from different backgrounds, many displaced, from the north or the east. They resell to intermediaries in Gaoua,” said Sansan Urbain Kambou, a local leader in Gbomblora. South Africa-based Institute for Security Studies also shared that miners smuggle gold into neighbouring Togo, Benin, Niger and Ghana.