22 Miners Rescued From Collapsed Nicaragua Gold Mine

Rescuers freed 22 workers trapped in a collapsed mine in Nicaragua since early Thursday. Other workers are still missing.
Posted at 8:42 AM, Aug 30, 2014

Officials say rescue teams freed 22 workers from an unlicensed gold mine in northern Nicaragua late Friday night after it collapsed Thursday morning and buried them underground.

RESCUED MINER TO THE TELEGRAPH: "We thought we would remain trapped down there, we've been fighting all night until the morning to get out."

Authorities told reporters the men, who were all between the ages of 18 and 35, had no visible injuries after their rescue. But they were taken to a local clinic as a precaution. (Video via Euronews)

The Telegraph reports the mouth of the mine caved in early Thursday because of a landslide triggered by heavy rains in the area.

Officials say two workers who were buried near the surface were able to dig their way out soon after, but dozens more were left stranded in the collapsed mine shaft about 2,600 feet underground. (Video via BBC)

According to the BBC, the men were freelance miners who weren't directly employed by a mining company. And apparently, the mine had been deemed unsafe for some time.

The head of the company that owns the mine, Colombian firm Hemco, told Al Jazeera it was closed about 4 years ago. But freelance miners still continued to work there against the company's orders.

Freelance mining like that is legal in Nicaragua so more people can profit from the industry. Miners were allowed to work in Hemco's mines as long as they sold the gold they found back to the company. 

That is, until last week, when Hemco decided it couldn't be sure where the product came from and stopped buying minerals from them.

The mining industry is crucial to the economies of many countries in Africa and Latin America.

But it's often dangerous. Two other workers were killed in the very same mine two months ago by a weather-induced landslide. (Video via ABC)

And at least 25 people died at a gold mine near the Central African Republic town of Bambari last week after it suddenly collapsed.

As for this most recent collapse in Nicaragua, authorities say it's unclear exactly where in the mine the other missing workers are trapped. But Hemco insisted in a statement rescuers won't stop searching until everyone inside is found.

This video includes images from Getty Images.