It is with deep sadness that Rosebel Gold Mines (RGM) today learned of the tragic incident that occurred within our concession area in which a number of porknokkers became trapped in a collapsed illegal tunnel. Our sincere condolences go out to the families of those affected by this fatal incident. The safety and well-being of all individuals within our concession area continues to be RGM’s top priority. Currently, the search for survivors is ongoing and all necessary equipment, safety and medical personnel are being deployed from RGM in the rescue operation.
We have been in discussions with the Surinamese authorities for quite some time, during which we have repeatedly emphasized the dangers of illegal gold mining. We very much regret that mainly the Matawai area has seen an increase in life threatening practices of porknokkers in recent months. There have been several efforts earlier this year to address this dangerous situation. Back in October, we attempted to remove the porknokkers from the area by submitting an official request for eviction to the Government authorities, which was subsequently granted. Nevertheless, the same group of porknokkers has resettled in the area in question, despite previous police action to remove them. This unfortunately resulted in the tragic incident that occurred.
In order to find appropriate measures and effective solutions to this problem, we had another meeting this morning with Vice President Ronnie Brunswijk. Unfortunately, shortly after this important meeting, we received disturbing news about the collapse of a tunnel in the Matawai area. This tragic incident serves as a poignant reminder of the inherent risks and dangers of participating in irresponsible gold mining.
Illegal gold mining not only endangers the lives of those involved, but also poses significant environmental risks and undermines the sustainable development goals we are collectively trying to achieve. We will therefore also do whatever is necessary from RGM to raise awareness about the dangers of illegal gold mining and lend our cooperation to the Surinamese authorities to address this problem and take measures to prevent further tragedies. We hereby again express our condolences to the bereaved families and wish them strength and fortitude with this grievous loss.