Underground mining at
Tanzanite One’s Merelani
mine, in Tanzania
 
Nairobi, Kenya — MININGREVIEW.COM — 02 April, 2008 – Sixteen miners have been confirmed dead and 49 others were feared killed in northern Tanzania after floods swept through a remote gemstone mine in the region at the weekend in the wake of torrential downpours.

Reporting from the neighbouring capital, Reuters quotes Manyara Regional Commissioner Henry Shekifu as saying that rescue workers had retrieved eight bodies and eight others had been located in an inaccessible part of the mine.

"Forty-nine more are still unaccounted for," Shekifu told Reuters by telephone from the rescue scene. Officials had previously given conflicting figures for the total number of miners, as some had failed to register before going underground.

Meanwhile local media report that President Jakaya Kikwete has visited the scene of the disaster to see how rescue work was progressing. Volunteer rescuers, working alongside Tanzanian police, have been complaining about the lack of basic protective gear like gloves, masks and boots.

In Tanzania’s worst mining disaster, about 70 people were killed in 1998 when heavy rains caused a mine to collapse. Explosions and suffocation are also common causes of mining accidents in Tanzania’s "wild north", where small-scale independent miners dig remote gem fields in search of tanzanite.