At least 12 workers trapped in China gold mine are still alive: Xinhua

(Reuters) - Twelve workers who were left trapped underground after an explosion at a gold mine in eastern China a week ago are still alive, according to a note retrieved from the site, the official Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday, citing local authorities.

A total of 22 workers were trapped in the Hushan mine, in Shandong province, after the blast on Jan. 10. It was not until 30 hours later that the accident was reported, however, leading to severe criticism of those responsible and the sacking of two senior local officials.

Xinhua provided no further details on what the retrieved “paper slip” said, but added that rescuers also felt people pulling on iron ropes that had been lowered into the mine, which was still under construction.

The condition of the other 10 workers was unclear, Xinhua said.

The news agency reported earlier on Sunday that when rescuers knocked on a drilling pipe, they heard knocking sounds in response.

The workers’ communication system was damaged in the blast, while debris blocking the mine shaft and the late reporting of the accident have also hampered the rescue effort.

The mine is owned by Shandong Wucailong Investment Co Ltd, which China’s fourth-biggest gold miner, Zhaojin Mining Industry Co Ltd, describes as a “subsidiary of an associate.”

Zhaojin has not commented publicly on the accident.

Reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Peter Cooney