Friday’s accident occurred at the Ndiyo gold quarry, around 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Watsa, the main town in the Watsa territory of Upper-Uele province, according to Dieudonné Apasa, mining minister of Haut-Uele province.
The minister attributed the accident to a landslide triggered by ongoing heavy rains.
“Initially, we thought non-compliance with the legal depths as well as prohibited practices of entering the tunnels was responsible for the accident. But available information indicates it was simply a landslide. They [miners] were less than 20 meters deep, while the legal limit is set at 30 meters. So the main cause is the heavy rains we have received in recent times," Apasa was quoted as saying by the Actualite.cd website.
The bodies of the victims were removed at a depth of 12 meters in the quarry and transported to various areas, including Watsa, Durba, Moku and Ngangazo, he said.
Local authorities indicated the death toll was based on a provisional assessment.
Mining accidents happen often at illegally run mines on the continent -- attributable to the use of rudimentary tools and artisanal methods which do not guarantee safety standards.
At least 16 people were killed following a cave-in at the Kampene gold mine in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in October.
The accident was also attributed to a landslide.
In the same month, some 30 miners were killed after a gold mine collapsed in Chad near the Libyan border.
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