An aerial view of a shanty town buried by a landslide in a mining area in Kingking village of Pantukan town [Reuters]

At least three people have been killed and scores of others are missing after a landslide caused by heavy rains hit a mining area in the southern Philippines.

The disaster hit Kingking village near Pantukan town in Compostela valley province on the island of Mindanao just before dawn on Friday, burying people under mud, rocks and rubble, officials said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Camilo Ligayo, spokesman of a military unit aiding the site, said residents had told him at least 40 people were missing and feared buried in the tunnels and their homes.

"There are 40 still missing and that is a conservative estimate. The one who gave the estimate was one of the survivors from the tunnels. They know each other there," he told the AFP news agency.

"The landslide is massive and these people, the small scale miners, they work and live on the slopes. They have bunkers, houses, stores."

Celso Sarenas, the mayor of Pantukan, said the dead included a 16-year-old miner.

Rescue workers, including police, soldiers and miners, were able to save 11 people, but the remote location and unstable terrain was hampering efforts to bring in equipment, such as bulldozers.

Shanty towns have grown around Kingking following a gold rush in the area around two decades ago. Many of the mining operations are illegal and unregulated.

Two years ago, a similar landslide in another part of the village killed more than 20 people, including some children.

Residents had been ordered to relocate due to the instability of the land and higher risks of landslides.

The Philippines is said to sit on an estimated $1 trillion untapped mineral deposits, but has only targeted to attract $1bn in mining investment this year.

Source: Agencies