Rescue efforts free 22 miners in Nicaragua landslide

Jose Castro – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Bonanza, Nicaragua (4E) – The continued efforts of rescuers overnight paid off as the team was able to extract 20 of the 26 trapped miners in Nicaragua. The miners were sealed in their shaft after a mudslide covered the entrance. The miners were able to walk out of the shaft despite being underground for over 24 hours.

The recent heavy rains in the area had triggered the landslide which covered the exit of the gold mine. Despite the downpour, rescuers worked round the clock to rescue the miners and they are expecting the remaining ones trapped to be able to leave the mine in the next few hours.

According to one of the rescued miners, Marvin Urbina, he saw an ‘avalanche of mud and rock’ coming at him last Thursday morning. The mine he had been working on was the El Cornal gold and silver mine located in Bonanza, Nicaragua. While others were able to escape being swept away by pressing themselves against the walls of the mine, at least four were unable to escape the deluge.

The miners were extricated from the shaft through the use of a pulley system that was set up in the narrowed tunnel. The first two were extracted of the 28 listed to be working in the shaft at the time of the landslide. Two were able to escape by digging their way out of the shaft. The 20 others were in the shaft at a depth of about 800 meters underground.

The miners were given first aid by paramedics. They were then brought to a clinic in Bonanza, a remote town about 260 miles or 420 kilometers from Managua, the Nicaraguan capital.

According to Nicaraguan Interior Vice Minister Carlos Najar, the miners were a bit dehydrated but in good health. He added, “They are coming out little by little, it’s a slow process but we want to make sure they can get out safely.” He added he is expecting more of the miners to be rescued shortly.

While the rescue efforts were ongoing, hundreds of relatives and fellow miners had gathered for prayers offered to the miners as well as rescuers. The rescue teams had used several ladders along the tunnel to get to the pocket where the miners were located. The mine layout was that it cuts into the side of the mountain and then goes upward.

The mine was operated by Hemco, a Colombian firm. The miners were freelancers, according to Hemco spokesperson Gregorio Downs. These miners get paid when they sell to the company whatever gold they are able to find. The miners were warned, according to Downs, as to the risks involved in working in the El Comal mines. Two miners had perished because of another rain induced landslide last July.

The informal gold mining business has boomed in the area, especially since the price of gold has tripled from USD400 to USD1,200 per troy ounce. These freelancing miners or ‘guiriseros’ can earn between USD1500 to USD3000 per month by selling gold to foreign companies.

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