At least 52 people died when an illegal gold mine collapsed in northern Chad this week, a government source said on Friday, with authorities still searching for more bodies.
Chad officials initially said as many as 30 people may have died when the mine caved in on Tuesday in Kouri Bougoudi, in Tibesti province, near the Libyan border, an area rife with illicit mining and smugglers.
Another source who was part of a mission to visit the area also confirmed the new death toll.
“There are 37 injured, including 21 seriously,” the second source said.
Tibesti is largely lawless and home to numerous gangs and traffickers seeking to profit from a gold rush in the area.
Clashes in January between Arab miners from Libya and miners from Chad”s Ouaddai community left “dozens” dead, according to security and mining sources.
Kouri Bougoudi has been the centre of clashes among ethnic, local and foreign groups since 2012 and 2013 after the discovery of gold deposits there.
The Chadian government has authorised mining companies to exploit the deposits but rights groups accuse authorities of using Arab fighters to force a takeover of the area.
Chad, a huge impoverished country in the heart of the Sahel, has been chronically unstable since it gained independence from France in 1960.
In March, the Chadian government decided to set up a joint security force in Tibesti and closed the border with southern Libya — a major source of trafficking and a haven for Chadian rebels.
That move was followed in August by a decree by President Idriss Deby declaring a state of emergency in Tibesti and two other provinces.