Rabat – Minister of Energy and Mines Aziz Rabbah announced Wednesday that authorities closed 2,000 “abandoned and illicitly exploited” mineshafts in Jerada, eastern Morocco.Rabbah promised to close the 1,500 remaining shafts by the end of 2019, AFP reported.Jerada, an impoverished city, witnessed multiple informal miners’ deaths and accidents during the last two years. In two separate mine accidents, four informal miners died in December 2017. Two of them were crushed while mining underground at an abandoned mineshaft in Jerada.Read Also: Morocco Sentences 9 People Protesting in Jerada After Mining DeathsAnother miner died while extracting coal from an illegal mine near the city when the walls of the mine collapsed and killed him on February 1, 2018.The death of miners sparked a wave of protests denouncing social inequality and unemployment.The protests also led to several arrests. A court handed down the first sentences for protesters on November 8 last year. Nine people received three to five years in prison.Early last year, the government promised to shut abandoned shafts, stop illegal mining in the region, and offer in return economic opportunities for the local population.Read Also: Second Miner Dies in Jerada Mining Accident in 4 DaysThe government said in February 2018 it would launch an industrial zone for Jerada to “provide young entrepreneurs in several business sectors with the opportunity to carry out their projects.However, the city’s informal miners have continued to venture into abandoned mineshafts and sell coal to local brokers, to earn a living.Due to lack of safety precautions, at least eight more accidental deaths occurred last year, including five in November alone.Minister Rabbah said Wednesday that Morocco granted 26 mining permits in 2018 to young miners in the region “attached to special cooperatives,” according to AFP.The state will invest $95 million in industry and agriculture projects by 2020, Rabbah added.In 1998, the government closed a coal mine employing 9,000 workers leading to a collapse in the city’s main industry. The mine, according to AFP, was judged uneconomical.