Three people were killed Tuesday and three others injured when a zinc and lead mine collapsed in northeastern Morocco, authorities said, in a region shaken by protests over similar accidents.
The accident occurred near the impoverished former mining town of Jerada a week after two people, including a teenager, died in another collapse of abandoned mines.
Hundreds of illegal miners in the town risk their lives in abandoned mine shafts to extract mainly coal, the sale of which is legal thanks to operating permits issued by Moroccan authorities.
Jerada has been hit by social unrest and peaceful protests following the deaths last December of two brothers trapped in a mine shaft followed by two other deaths under similar circumstances.
Tuesday’s accidental deaths took place in the small community of Ras Asfour in a mine that was operating with an official permit, state MAP news agency quoted local officials as saying, unlike previous ones.
Moroccan authorities pledged a series of measures to revive the economy in Jerada, one of the poorest regions of Morocco according to official statistic, and vowed to close all abandoned mines.
In April the government launched a plan aimed at providing alternative means of livelihood for the population amid demands by protesters for “economic alternatives” to “death mines”.
Authorities have arrested 95 people in connection with the protests and 25 of them were put on trial, according to a lawyer who has defended some of them.
Last week nine protesters were sentenced to jail terms ranging from three to five years on charges including the destruction of public property, incitement to carry out criminal acts and taking part in unauthorized protests.