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Man killed in cave-in at illegal mine in R’kiri

A gem miner working at an illegal mine in Rattanakkiri’s Bakeo district was killed in an accident at the site on Thursday, the second such death in three months.

Miner Tim Manh, 28, was working in a 10-metre-deep hole when the earth collapsed over his head, killing him. Nou Saroeun, 63, said residents of Bakeo Chas village, where the mine is located, had unsuccessfully tried to rescue his son. “He was crushed to death,” he said.

Laminh commune chief Pen Sophun said the victim had been illegally mining on state-owned land. Saroeun estimated that hundreds of miners worked on the site during rainy season, while the number decreased to 50 to 60 during dry season owing to lower success rates.

Chhay Thy, provincial coordinator for NGO Adhoc, deemed this estimate realistic. However, provincial mines and energy department director Hun Bunthan said only a small number of villagers were engaged in illegal mining now, as authorities had visited the site many times since 1995. “They know it’s risking their lives, but they still do it,” he said.

Saroeun, the father, said that a gem of good quality and size could be “worth up to one or two thousand US dollars,” but that this was very rare. Manh had only earned about $25 over the past month, he said.

In September, 25-year-old Romam Phuoy died in a similar incident in the same commune. Thy said illegal mining would continue as long as brokers managed to buy gems due to lax implementation of the law.

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