Rescuers locate 20 of 24 trapped in Nicaragua mine

LUIS MANUEL GALEANO and ESTEBAN FELIX | Associated Press Published:

BONANZA, Nicaragua -- Rescuers on Friday located 20 of at least 24 freelance gold miners trapped underground by a landslide in northern Nicaragua, but were not immediately able to bring them to safety.

Teams of dogs helped locate the 20 miners, and rescue workers were laboring to get them out, said Milagros Solorzano of the ruling Sandinista Party in Bonanza.

Soloranzo told local Channel 8 that the 20 miners were located in a kind of cave inside the mine and have been able to communicate with rescue workers. They whereabouts of the other four are unknown.

The slide occurred Thursday at the El Comal gold and silver mine operated by Hemco in the town of Bonanza, about 260 miles (420 kilometers) northeast of Managua.

According to the website of Nicaragua-based Hemco, 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, majority owned by Colombia's Mineros S.A., 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.

The trapped miners are not employees of Hemco, but freelancers allowed to work in Hemco's concession if they sell any gold they find to the firm, said mining company spokesman Gregorio Downs.

Downs said the company had warned miners about the danger of working in the El Comal area, especially after two miners died in a there last month in a landslide caused by rain.

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