According to the state television and witnesses, a powerful explosion near a gold mining facility in southwestern Burkina Faso killed 63 people and injured more than 100 others on Monday. The death toll is still on the rise.
Following the blast in the village of Gbomblora, regional officials released a provisional toll. Chemicals used to treat gold that was kept at the site are thought to have triggered the explosion.
“I saw bodies all over the place.” Sansan Kambou, a forest ranger who was present at the time of the explosion, told The Associated Press over the phone that it was “terrible.”
Around 2 p.m., the first explosion occurred, followed by further blasts as people fled for their lives, he claimed.
Burkina Faso is Africa’s fastest-growing gold producer and the continent’s fifth-largest, with gold being the country’s most important export. In 2019, the industry employed over 1.5 million people and had a market value of around $2 billion.
Small gold mines, such as Gbomblora, have exploded in popularity in recent years, with over 800 scattered across the country. According to the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, much of the gold is trafficked into neighbouring Togo, Benin, Niger, and Ghana.
Jihadists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State are said to have employed the small-scale mines in strikes in the nation since 2016. The groups are said to raise money by taxing miners, and they also utilize the mines to recruit warriors and seek refuge.
Small-scale mines, according to mining experts, have less controls than industrial miners, making them potentially more risky.