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updated: 8/29/2014 1:49 PM

At least 24 trapped in mine landslide in Nicaragua

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Associated Press

MANAGUA, Nicaragua -- Rescuers worked Friday to reach at least 24 gold miners trapped by a landslide in northern Nicaragua.

They could hear voices and presumed that all those trapped are alive, Marta Lagos, an official of the ruling Sandinista Party, told Channel 4 TV. She said rescuers were working to establish contact through an old mine shaft and searching for old tunnels to reach the miners.

Mining company spokesman Gregorio Downs said teams of dogs also were being sent in to help.

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.

A government website, El 19 Digital, reported that one of the 26 originally trapped miners escaped Thursday night and another was rescued Friday morning,

Authorities didn't receive word until late Thursday after the mine lost contact with the workers, who are believed to be about 165 feet below the surface.

Downs told the government's news website that 26 miners were trapped, and the company initially had contact with them. But he said apparently there were more slides inside after the initial one.

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.

Downs told the Associated Press that the trapped miners are not employees of the company, but are allowed to work areas in Hemco's concession if they sell the gold they find to the company.

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

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