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Nicaragua gold miners trapped after landslide

Official says rescue "will not be easy" though rescuers presume miners are still alive as they can hear their voices.

Last updated: 29 Aug 2014 20:29
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Mining company spokesman Gregorio Downs said teams of dogs had been dispatched to help [AFP]

Rescuers worked Friday to reach at least 24 gold miners trapped by a landslide in northern Nicaragua.

They could hear voices and presumed that all those trapped are alive, Marta Lagos, an official of the ruling Sandinista Party, told Channel 4 TV.

She said rescuers were working to establish contact through an old mine shaft and searching for old tunnels to reach the miners.

"The rescue will not be easy," the the government-run El 19 Digital website quoted Lagos as saying.

El 19 Digital reported that one of the 26 originally trapped miners escaped on Thursday night and another was rescued on Friday morning.

Antonio Lopez, an official with Nicaragua's national disaster prevention agency, told Reuters news agency that between 20 and 25 miners were trapped but had no further details.

Mining company spokesman Gregorio Downs said teams of dogs had been dispatched to help.

The slide occurred on Thursday at the El Comal gold and silver mine operated by Hemco in the town of Bonanza, 420km northeast of Managua, Nicaragua's capital.

Authorities did not receive word until late Thursday after the mine lost contact with the workers, who are believed to be about 165 feet (50 meters) below the surface.

According to the website of Nicaragua-based Hemco, the company has mined in the north Atlantic municipality since 1995 and employs 532 workers, who process 700 tons of material a day.

The company, majority owned by Colombia's Mineros S.A., says it produces more than 2,500 pounds of gold a year and is Nicaragua's 12th largest exporter.

Downs told the Associated Press that the trapped miners are not employees of the company, but are allowed to work areas in Hemco's concession if they sell the gold they find to the company.

He said the company had warned miners about the danger of working in the El Comal area, especially after two miners died in a rain-caused landslide.

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