35 Die in Afghan Gold-Mine Collapse

KABUL, Afghanistan (dpa/TNS) -

Thirty-five people died and at least 12 were injured in a collapse at a gold mine in Afghanistan Sunday morning, provincial council member Abdullah Naji Nazari said.

About 50 workers were trapped by the accident in what Nazari described as a locally dug mine with no safety standards in Kohistan district.

The mine was next to a river, whose waters were apparently being used to help sift gravel to find the gold.

Illegal mining in Afghanistan is a major problem. Insurgents and traffickers profit from the mining industry while the government, whose influence does not reach some areas because of the country’s ongoing conflict or difficult terrain, can do little to stop it.

A study by the United States Institute of Peace published last year said that most of the mining in Afghanistan is “either illegal or unregulated.”

Mines have been run by local communities in some cases for decades while in others, they are controlled or exploited by the Taliban or criminal networks, the study said.

The roads to 12 districts in Badakshan, including Kohistan, have been cut off by heavy snow, which may hamper aid and emergency efforts, local news agency Pajhwok reported.