Ten bodies recovered from collapsed Colombia mine

BOGOTA Sat May 3, 2014 11:10pm EDT

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BOGOTA (Reuters) - Rescue workers had pulled 10 bodies from the rubble of a collapsed illegal gold mine in Colombia by Saturday, the government said, three days after it caved in, and six are still believed to be buried under tons of mud and gravel.

The mine in Santander de Quilichao in southwestern Cauca province collapsed just before midnight on Wednesday when workers were at the site. Three bodies were recovered shortly after but excavators have been digging for days to reach others buried deeper.

"The search continues with dogs and the rescue personnel to find the site where could be more victims," said Captain Victor Claros, commander of the Santander de Quilichao's fire and rescue brigade.

The Mines and Energy Ministry confirmed the recovery of 10 bodies in a statement.

A large proportion of Colombia's gold output comes from illegal mines, many under the control of leftist guerrillas who have been fighting the government for five decades. Precarious conditions at the mines lead to frequent accidents.

The ministry said there had been 30 fatalities linked to illegal mining activity this year.

Authorities have said attempts to close the mine had failed due to the hostile reaction of workers and those in control of the site.

The tragedy follows one a week ago in which four people died after inhaling toxic gases at an artisanal mine in the western province of Antioquia.

(Reporting by Peter Murphy and Nelson Bocanegra; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Robert Birsel)

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