17 Oct 2010

Three of four trapped Ecuador miners found dead

3:07 pm on 17 October 2010

Three of four workers trapped in a collapsed gold mine in southern Ecuador have been found dead, while the status of the fourth man remains unknown.

The four became trapped when a collapse blocked their exit, leaving them stuck some 150 metres below ground in the Casa Negra mine near the town of Portovelo on Friday.

Despite punching holes large enough to pump fresh air to the mine, emergency workers report no contact with the sole missing miner.

Mining officials said they were preparing to send down a probe equipped with a camera to see if the fourth miner was alive.

Three of the four trapped miners have been found dead, said a civil defence source on condition of anonymity, adding that recovery workers had so far been able to extract the body of the chief miner, Walter Vera.

The men were trapped at the fifth level of the mine and were believed to be in a gallery about 60 metres wide and two metres high.

The BBC reports the survival of 33 miners in Chile for 69 days has put a spotlight on mining safety in Latin America where there are still many accidents.

One of the worst of recent times took place in Colombia in June, when more than 70 miners died after a gas explosion at a coal mine.