An accident at an unregulated gold mining site in Mali, West Africa, killed more than 70 artisanal gold miners, according to a statement issued by the Mines Ministry of Mali.

The mine accident has occurred last week in the Kangaba district of the south-western Koulikoro region, but the government now officially confirmed the accident and its death toll.

Mali Chamber of Mines president Abdoulaye Pona, who was at the accident site, said there were around 100 people in the mine at the time of the collapse.

The Mines Ministry said the death toll is expected to increase as the search operation continues and appealed to the communities living near mining sites to follow safety guidelines.

According to Reuters, Artisanal mining is the most common practice across larger parts of West Africa and is increasing due to growing demand for metals and rising prices.

Artisanal gold mining is estimated to produce around 30 tons of gold per annum and represents around 6% of Mali’s annual gold production, reported The Globe and Mail.

The unregulated, small-scale mining activities in the region often result in deadly accidents, as the artisanal miners use old-fashioned and unsafe methods of mining.

The Ministry of Mines spokesperson Baye Coulibaly told Reuters on the telephone: “The death toll was still provisional. Gold panners have dug galleries without complying with the required standards, and we have advised them against it on several occasions in vain.”