The explosion collapsed part of an access tunnel that is more than 1.6 kilometre long and drops to a depth of 150 metres, John Rendon the provincial disaster co-ordinator, said.

Two injured miners managed to escape from the mine, Rendon said.

IN VIDEO

Rescuers struggle in Colombia mine

"It's very sad news,'' Uribe said in a statement, saying that the predicament of the trapped miners is "a very difficult fate.".

Alberto Mejia, an army commander, said a 22-man army special forces rescue team was being dispatched to the mine to help.

At least 100 rescue workers were at the scene, Beatriz Delgado from the Red Cross, said.

Hundreds are killed or injured every year while prospecting for gold or coal in often makeshift mines in Colombia, the world's fifth largest coal exporter.

Last year a methane gas explosion, also in Antioquia province, killed eight workers and in 2007, 31 miners were killed in an explosion in Norte de Santander in one of the worst disasters of its kind in a decade.