Mine collapse kills two in Morocco region hit by unrest

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Two people were killed Sunday at an abandoned mine in a northeastern region of Morocco that has been hit by social unrest sparked by similar accidents, authorities said.

The accident happened when a shaft collapsed on the pair in the Sidi Boubker commune of Jerada province as they tried to mine lead.

"Two people, aged around 33 and 42, died on Sunday following the partial collapse of a lead gallery in Sidi Boubker," the local authorities said, quoted by Moroccan news outlets.

"The victims were extracted from inside the gallery by a group of their companions," they were quoted as saying.

"One of the victims, who was still alive, was rushed to hospital at Oujda university... but later succumbed to their injuries."

Moroccan authorities have vowed to close all abandoned mines in Jerada after months of social unrest in the former mining region.

In March, police told AFP a maximum of 300 of the mines remained open out of more than 3,200 wells in Jerada, with those abandoned presenting a "clear danger".

Jerada has seen waves of peaceful demonstrations since the deaths in December of two brothers trapped in an abandoned mine shaft, as they tried to mine coal.

Two additional deaths under similar circumstances sparked anger and indignation among residents in the economically devastated town, which official statistics rank among the poorest in the kingdom.

Protesters have demanded "economic alternatives" to "death mines", from which hundreds of miners have struggled to make a living despite their closure in the late 1990s.

Protesters have also lambasted the "coal barons", local notables who are mostly elected officials and have permits to resell coal taken from closed mines.

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