At least 14 people were missing and feared dead after an illegal gold mine in western Ghana in which they were working collapsed, police said on Tuesday. Five people escaped unhurt from the pit in the old mining town of Prestea, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) west of the capital, Accra.
“There were about 19 people that went into the pit and only five came out alive. It’s past 48 hours now and the presumption is that the 14 are dead,” local police chief Atsu Dzineku told Reuters.
Africa’s second largest gold producer after South Africa, Ghana has struggled to rein in illegal mining, which pollutes water sources and threatens cocoa production as the miners take over cocoa farms. The government of President Nana Akufo-Addo, who took office in January, has temporarily banned artisanal mining, or panning for gold, in a renewed effort to clamp down on illegal operators.
Artisanal mining is common across west and central Africa and accidents are frequent, particularly in the rainy season. Dozens of illegal miners were killed after being trapped in an accident in central Ghana two years ago.