November 28, 2017 / 12:58 PM / 19 days ago

At least 17 killed in gold mine dispute on Mali-Guinea border

CONAKRY (Reuters) - A two-day skirmish between Guinean and Malian villagers over control of a gold mine that straddles the countries’ joint border killed at least 17 people, a government official in Guinea said on Tuesday.

Villagers in both countries lay claim to the zone’s rich underground deposits, which have lured thousands of people to work in unregulated small-scale mines along the border.

Artisanal gold mining, conducted with rudimentary tools, is a key source of income in both Mali and Guinea, but poses numerous safety risks, including frequent mine collapses.

“There are five dead on the Guinean side and 12 dead on the Malian side,” said Cheick Mohamed Diallo, prefect of the town of Mandiana in eastern Guinea.

A witness on the Guinean side of the border said the villagers fought each other with firearms and bladed weapons. The fighting has ceased, local resident Cheikh Keita said, but the situation remained tense on Tuesday.

A similar incident occurred in February 2015, when Guinean miners killed three Malian nationals in a fight over a gold discovery.

Reporting by Saliou Samb; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Aaron Ross and Richard Balmforth

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