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59 killed in Burkina Faso gold mine explosion

A powerful explosion near a gold mining facility in southwestern Burkina Faso killed 59 people and injured more than 100 others on Monday. 

The news: Chemicals used to treat gold that were kept at the site are thought to have triggered the explosion.

What happened: “I noticed bodies all over the place. It was a nightmare,” said Sansan Kambou, a forest warden who was present at the time of the explosion. 

  • At around 2 p.m., the first explosion occurred, followed by further blasts as people fled for their lives, he claimed. 
  • Burkina Faso is home to some major gold mines run by international companies, but also to hundreds of smaller, informal sites that operate without oversight or regulation.
  • It is Africa’s fastest-growing gold producer and the continent’s fifth-largest, with gold being the country’s most important export.
  • Children frequently work in these so-called artisanal mines; accidents are common.
  •  In 2019, the industry employed over 1.5 million people and had a market value of around $2 billion.

In addition: Small gold mines, such as Gbomblora, have exploded in popularity in recent years, with an estimated 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. 
  • Since 2016, jihadists linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State have reportedly used small-scale mines in strikes across the country. The gangs, according to sources, make money by charging miners and use sites to recruit soldiers and seek refuge.
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