Sunday, 31 August 2014

Five workers still missing following landslide at Nicaraguan gold mine.

Twenty three miners have been rescued after a landslide trapped them underground at the Bonanza Mine in Northern Nicaragua on Thursday 28 August 2014, leaving five of the 28 workers below ground at the time of the incident unaccounted for, and believed to be trapped in a shaft 800 m bellow the ground. The incident happened following heavy rainfall in the area. Landslides are a common problem after severe weather events, as excess pore water pressure can overcome cohesion in soil and sediments, allowing them to flow like liquids. Approximately 90% of all landslides are caused by heavy rainfall.

Rescue workers at the Bonanza Mine on Friday 29 August 2014. AFP.

The mine lies within an area under concession to Colombian-owned HEMCO, but formal production ended some years ago. Instead the mine is accessed by informal miners called 'guiriseros' who are permitted to work the mine by the company, as long as they sell it any gold they find. HEMCO reportedly ordered these miners to cease production in June this year, after two were killed in an incident at the mine, but appears to have continued to purchase gold from miners who ignored this ban. Artisanal miners in Nicaragua can reportedly earn as much as US$3000 a month selling gold to concession-owners, in a country where 44.7% of the population is described as living below the poverty line, providing a strong incentive for miners to keep working even in dangerous conditions.

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