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SIERRA LEONE

Conflicting reports on gold mine cave-in

Text by: NEWS WIRES
2 min

Officials in Sierra Leone have denied reports that 200 miners were killed Friday in a gold mine cave-in.

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AFP - Up to 200 wildcat miners were feared missing Friday amid reports of a gold mine collapse in southern Sierra Leone, which were denied by the country's mining ministry.

Mineral Resources Minister Alpha Kanu had visited the scene of the alleged mine collapse in Bo province but found no signs of a disaster, the minister's permanent secretary Umaru Wurie told AFP.

"There is no truth in this story. The minister was there, our mining engineer in the area was there, the police were there, the army was there -- nothing," Wurie said.

Police and ministry sources earlier reported a mine collapse near the town of Mongere, some 180 miles (290 kilometres) southeast of the capital Freetown.

"The mine collapsed ... we fear that up to about 200 people who were undertaking illicit mining are still unaccounted for. We have launched a search party," a police official from Bo said on condition of anonymity.

A mid-level ministry official in Freetown said people were mining for gold 40 feet (12 metres) underground when "a wall collapsed and they were trapped".

A former miner in the town who said he witnessed the accident said believed child miners had been involved in the incident at the mine which has been legally closed for five years.

The chairman of the local district council was unable to confirm an accident. "We have also heard this story but we cannot verify it. We are sending a team tomorrow to investigate."

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