Provincial governor Theo Ngwabije Kasi deplored 'the tragic deaths of 50 people, most of them young' [File: Reuters]

Makeshift mine collapses in the town of Kamituga in South Kivu province following heavy rains in the region.

At least 50 people are feared dead after a gold mine collapsed in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), local authorities have said.

The accident in the makeshift mine occurred on Friday about 3pm local time (13:00 GMT) following heavy rains in the town of Kamituga in South Kivu province.

Provincial governor Theo Ngwabije Kasi deplored “the tragic deaths of 50 people, most of them young,” while Kamituga mayor Alexandre Bundya said “we are not yet sure of the exact number” of victims.

“Several miners were in the shaft which was covered and no one could get out,” said Emiliane Itongwa, president of the Initiative of Support and Social Supervision of Women, a local mining NGO.

Photos and videos on social media showed hundreds of people at the site, some of whom could be heard wailing on a hillside around the mine-shaft entrance.

“Kamituga is in mourning,” wrote Dieudonne Bazika, who shot and posted a video on his Twitter account.

The mine was not located on the Kamituga gold concession owned by the Canadian miner Banro Corporation, the company’s chief executive said.

Thousands of illegal miners operate in and around mines in DRC, which produces more than half of the world’s cobalt, a key component in electric car batteries.

Mining accidents are common, with dozens of deaths every year in mines where often ill-equipped diggers burrow deep underground in search for ore.

Last year, a landslide at a disused gold mine killed 16 people in October, while 43 illegal miners died in another landslide at a copper and cobalt mine in June.