DAR ES SALAAM: The collapse of a small-scale gold mine has killed at least 22 people in northern Tanzania following heavy rains, a senior government official said on Sunday.

The accident happened early on Saturday in the Simiyu region after a group of people aged between 24 and 38 years old started mining in an area where activity had been restricted due to ongoing heavy rains, Simon Simalenga, the region's Bariadi district commissioner, told Reuters.

"Initially we were told that there were 19 to 20 people who were trapped in the mines but unfortunately we ended up retrieving 22 bodies," he said, adding that the search and rescue operation was continuing although almost all the rubble that had buried them had now been removed.

Simalenga said the group had discovered an area rich in minerals around two to three weeks previously and moved to start mining before the government had approved physical and environmental safety and procedures.