At least 36 illegal miners were killed Thursday after part of a copper mine collapsed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a local official told CNN. The mine is owned by Anglo-Swiss mining giant Glencore.
Search and rescue operations are ongoing, said the town’s mayor, Veronique Upite Nkamina. She told CNN that 36 bodies have been pulled from the rubble so far and taken to a morgue.
Reuters reported that the death toll is “at least 39,” citing the province’s governor, Richard Muyej.
According to a statement from Glencore, the miners were working without permission at the Kamoto Copper Company (KCC) in Congo’s southeast region when two galleries overlooking the extraction area caved in on them.
Glencore said it had recorded an increase in illegal mining in its operations in the area, with an average of 2,000 illegal miners entering their sites every day.
“This has presented a significant risk to its employees, operating equipment and the illegal artisanal miners themselves,” Glencore said in the statement. “KCC urges all illegal miners to cease from putting their lives at risk by trespassing on a major industrial site.”
In the statement, Glencore confirmed 19 of the fatalities and said KCC is assisting with search and rescue operations.
Patrick Felix Abely reported from the DRC, Bukola Adebayo and Stephanie Busari from Lagos and Lauren Kent from London.