The Tanzanian Government has suspended all mining in the north of the country after up to 42 miners died following the failure of a fresh air pump, the BBC reported.
The disaster happened on Thursday at Mererani, near Mount Kilimanjaro – the only place in the world where the gemstone tanzanite is found.
Daniel ole Njoolay, the regional commissioner for Arusha, said there would be no more mining in the area until all the bodies had been recovered. Fourteen have been retrieved so far, the BBC reported.
The victims are about 410 feet underground and about 985 feet along a horizontal tunnel, the BBC reported.
Mining officials said 32 miners were registered to work in the mine when the pump failed, but another 10 miners were believed to have died in an initial rescue attempt, the BBC reported.
Correspondents say tanzanite mines are relatively primitive and lack proper safety equipment. They say miners are usually young men who often remain underground while carrying out blasting.
They use oxygen pumps fitted with long hoses to pump air down into the mines. The mines amount to little more than holes hundreds of feet deep and are notoriously dangerous.
In 1998 more than 50 people died after heavy rain flooded the mines.
“This is a devastating tragedy. In addition to the assistance we have already provided, we have assured the authorities and our neighbors that AFGEM’s people, equipment, and medical facilities are completely at their disposal,” said Joe Kimble, general manager of AFGEM’s Tanzanian operation, which operates Mine Block C, the only large-scale tanzanite mining operation, which operates Mine Block C, the only large-scale tanzanite mining operation.
The Mererani district is rich in deposits of tanzanite earns Tanzania about $8 million annually on the world market.