Rescue workers in Zambia were still searching on Monday for at least 25 informal miners buried alive four days ago by a mudslide at an open-pit copper mine, Mines Minister Paul Kabuswe said.
The miners at Seseli Mine in Chingola, about 400km (250 miles) northwest of the capital Lusaka, were trapped in three places on Thursday night and heavy rains had flooded the pit, the government said.
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The rescue mission began early Friday and while it remains unclear how many miners were trapped, Kabuswe said 25 families had so far come forward to claim missing relatives who were working at the mine when the accident happened.
The rescue workers, including military personnel and others from large-scale mining companies, were being cautious due to the soft ground, slowing down the operation, Kabuswe said.
“We must be mindful that we shouldn’t have an accident within another accident,” Kabuswe said.
On Monday, one of the rescue workers raised hopes of finding survivors.
“We are getting close and expect to find survivors as there [are] some voices we are hearing from one of the tunnels,” Wiva Chanda, an informal miner from the area helping with the rescue effort, told The Associated Press by telephone. “There is hope but I think it will be a mix of survivors and dead bodies.”
Further updates are expected on Tuesday.
Zambia is among the top 10 copper producers in the world. Chingola, a city in the country’s Copperbelt Province, has large open-pit copper mines surrounded by huge waste piles of rock and earth that have been dug out of the mines.
Informal mining in the country is common, where artisanal miners dig in search of minerals, often without proper safety procedures.