Four people died while three others sustained injuries while conducting illegal mining activities in a remote area of Rutsiro District this week, Rwanda National Police said in a statement on Wednesday.
Western Province Chief Inspector of Police Bonaventure Karekezi said the four miners died of suffocation at a mining site that was abandoned for more than two years.
Initially, a group of illegal miners went to mine at a site in Kagano cell. Five people went inside the mine, and two died after inhaling toxic gases formed inside the mine.
"Three came out to ask for rescue but left others with no choice but to go down the rock. The two others who went to rescue their colleagues also died of suffocation," Karekezi said.
The victims were mining cassiterite (tin ore).
Rutsiro district is one of the top districts in which illegal mining activities have been dominant.
The latest incident points to the persistence of illegal mining in different parts of the country.
Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB) Secretary-General, Jeannot Ruhunga, revealed at an event in Rutsiro District last year in May that at least 50 people died, while 41 sustained injuries while conducting illegal mining activities.
According to the Rwanda Mines, Gas and Petroleum Board (RMB), 46 per cent of recorded deaths last year were a result of illegal mining activities, mainly operating in abandoned zones.
The most frequently cited causes of accidents are rock falls or collapse of mine roof in underground mine or open pit, which for instance took 81 per cent of all causes between 2018 and 2019.
Lack of ventilation and suffocation has also contributed to mine accidents though still minimal.
Other causes include misuse of explosives, drowning into water ponds, especially children, slipping of miners due to lack of proper personal protective gear, and fighting between miners, which result in death or injury.