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Chinese miners to remain trapped at least two more weeks


Site of the gold mine

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image captionDrilling into the mine is extremely difficult

Chinese rescue teams say it might be more than two weeks until they can save a group of miners trapped hundreds of metres underground.

From the group of 11 miners authorities made contact with last weekend, one has since died after falling into a coma.

Rescue workers have so far only managed to drill small holes down, but are able to supply food and medicine to the trapped men.

The fate of another 11 miners remains unclear.

If the rescue can go ahead as planned, the miners will have been trapped for around four weeks.

How will the rescue work?

Currently, rescue operations are trying to widen a narrow shaft to make it big enough to lift the miners out.

However, drilling is proving difficult as it needs to get through particularly hard granite and the miners are trapped far from the surface. Rescuers face an added problem in that the mine is water-logged and there’s the risk the chamber where the miners are stuck could flood.

“The obstacles are just too huge, which means we need a least another 15 days or even more to reach the miners,” Gong Haitao, deputy head of the local publicity department, said.

The debris standing in the way weighs about 70 tons, he added.

How did they get trapped?

The Hushan gold mine collapsed on 10 January after an explosion. The entry into the mine was severely damaged and communication was cut off.

For a week, there was no sign of life. Then, last Sunday, rescuers felt a pull on one of the ropes they were lowering into small shafts leading down into the dark.

A paper note was then sent up on a rope from a group of 12 surviving miners – 11 trapped in one place and a twelfth trapped further below.

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Since then, the contact with the twelfth miner has been lost, while one of the group of 11, who had fallen into a coma after sustaining a head wound in the explosion, was on Thursday confirmed dead.

Another 10 miners have not been heard from, despite rescuers loweing life detectors and food into other sections of the mine.

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image captionRescuers have opened a communication channel with the trapped miners via a thin tunnel

Mining accidents are not uncommon in China, where the industry safety regulations can be poorly enforced. In December last year, 23 miners died after a carbon monoxide leak at a coal mine.

In September, 16 workers were killed at another mine on the outskirts of Chongqing, also due to carbon monoxide. In December 2019, an explosion at a coal mine in Guizhou province, south-west China, killed at least 14 people.

How are the miners doing?

The group of 10 known survivors are trapped in the dark some 600 metres (2,000ft) underground. They are in regular contact with the rescue teams.

A communication line has been established and food and medicine can be lowered to them through a narrow shaft.

While they’ve been receiving porridge and nutritional liquids, the miners a few days ago asked for a traditional meal of sausages.

Eight of them are thought to be doing well, while two are in poor health.

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Related Topics

  • Mining

  • China

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