Rebel Mine Collapses in Sierra Leone

March 9, 2000

Rebel Mine Collapses in Sierra Leone

"About 150 miners were killed when a clandestine diamond mine operated by rebel forces in Sierra Leone collapsed late Sunday night, the Associated Press and other news services report. A rescue was attempted, but only a few were saved.

The United Nations and the government of Sierra Leone declined comment on the report and the Revolutionary United Front, which allegedly operated the mine, denied any accident occurred. An RUF spokesperson told AP the group isn't even involved in mining operations.

The accident reportedly occurred in a sandy open-pit mine near Koidu in eastern Sierra Leone. RUF fighters consistently block U.N. forces from entering the area around Koidu, where AP says hundreds of open-pit mines can be seen from the air.

Then U.N. and other human rights groups say the rebels bankroll their activities through these clandestine mining operations, smuggling the diamonds out to buyers in Europe and the Middle East.

- by Liz Smutko