Two miners freed, 24 trapped in Nicaragua gold mine collapse
BOGOTA Aug 29 (Reuters) - Two of 26 artisanal gold miners trapped in a landslide caused by heavy rains in northern Nicaragua have been freed, while rescue efforts continue, the company that used to operate the mine said in a statement on Friday.
Colombian miner Mineros S.A., which operates the Bonanza region project via its Nicaraguan subsidiary Hemco, said it had been informed by local emergency services that the two miners were freed from a section of the mine the company had previously shut down.
Mineros said the collapse occurred early on Thursday morning on El Comal mountain, 2-1/2 miles (4 km) from their mine in Bonanza, which is about 260 miles (420 km) northeast of the capital Managua.
The company had condemned the part of the project where the miners are trapped after inspectors found it to be unsafe, but legal artisanal miners had continued to work there against the company's orders, said a spokeswoman at Mineros.
Hemco buys minerals produced by artisanal miners in Nicaragua, where the activity is legal and used as a way for more people in the poorest Latin American country to profit from the mining industry.
The spokeswoman said the mine had been collapsed to make it inaccessible after it was condemned and that access was likely to be difficult. Rescue workers were trying to insert a tube with oxygen into the underground mine.
The condition of the remaining trapped miners was unknown, the spokeswoman said.
The mine had been severely affected by seasonal rains in the past, the company said in its statement, with another landslide two months ago killing two miners.
"The rescue efforts are permanent and won't stop until we have helped the people who remain inside," the statement said.
The Bonanza project, which began in 1995, produces around 37,300 troy ounces of gold a year, according to Hemco's website. (Reporting by Peter Murphy; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Simon Gardner and Gunna Dickson)
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