Rescue workers in Zambia have pulled out the first survivor of a December 1 landslide that inundated an open-pit copper mine and trapped at least 25 people working there, the disaster management unit said on Wednesday.
The rescue team also retrieved one body which had yet to be identified, the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit said in a statement posted on Facebook.
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“A 49-year-old man has been rescued from the collapsed mine slug dump site in Chingola after being trapped with several other miners,” it said, adding that he was being treated in hospital.
Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema said on Tuesday he was still hopeful that the trapped miners, who were working there without a permit, were still alive, as rescue efforts continued.
The miners at Seseli mine in Chingola, about 400km (250 miles) northwest of Lusaka, were trapped in three locations and heavy rains had flooded the pit, the government said.
The mine was previously owned by Vedanta’s Konkola Copper Mines (KCM) but is now in the hands of a local company that has yet to start mining operations as it awaits safety and environmental approvals.
It was still not clear how many miners had been trapped but mines minister Paul Kabuswe said on Monday 25 families had so far come forward to claim missing relatives who were working when the accident happened.
Rescue workers, including military personnel and others from large-scale mining companies, were being cautious due to soft ground, slowing down the operation.
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.