At Least 4 Remain Trapped


NICARAGUA NEWS (AP) Rescuers hoped for a miracle Monday as they cautiously dug through mud, rocks and clay in search of at least four men missing since late last week when a landslide trapped them in a gold mine in Nicaragua.

Guided by a miner who escaped from the wildcat mine, workers found tools believed to belong to the men but had yet to find any sign of life four days after the accident.

“We hope to find them and that they are still alive,” Carlos Najar, vice minister of the Interior, told the Channel 4 television station.

At least 26 miners were trapped Thursday when earth around the mine gave way near Bonanza, about 260 miles (420 kilometers) northeast of Managua. Twenty-two men who were rescued from the site were examined at a hospital and released. Between four and eight men were believed still missing: The exact number was unclear because the miners were freelancers, not formal employees.

The El Comal gold and silver mine is operated under a concession held by Hemco, which is owned by Colombia-based Minero SA. But the trapped miners themselves are freelancers allowed to work in the area if they sell any gold they find to the firm.

“We will be here until we know what has happened to them, living or dead,” Rodrigo Flores, whose nephew is among the missing, told a local broadcaster, Radio Ya.

Gregorio Downs, a spokesman for Hemco, said the company would continue to offer all necessary support and hope that the missing men would be pulled out alive, as the 22 others were.

“We would wish for another miracle,” he told The Associated Press by telephone. “All we can do is wait.”

Small teams lead by miners and emergency workers were digging slowly into the shaft about 200 meters (yards) underground.

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 there last month.

Rescue squad commander Javier Amaya said Monday that oxygen levels in the partly collapsed mine remained good but efforts were hampered by water and humidity.

“We are continuing to work in very dangerous and unstable conditions, where there are slides all the time. A lot of water is flowing into the mine,” Amaya said.

Small teams lead by miners and emergency workers were digging slowly into the shaft about 200 meters (yards) underground.

According to the Hemco’s website, 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 says it produces more than 2,500 pounds (1,150 kilograms, 37,000 troy ounces) of gold a year and is Nicaragua’s 12th largest exporter.