Rescue Teams Use Excavator to Save Trapped Gold Miners in Indonesia

When a gold mine in a remote part of Indonesia collapsed early last week, over twenty people were trapped inside and running out of oxygen. Rescue teams had little success freeing the trapped workers, until an excavator was brought in with the hope of speeding up the rescue operation.

Eight people have died as a result of the mine collapse so far, while 20 people have been rescued said local disaster official Abdul Muin Paputungan on Friday. The mine collapsed on Tuesday, February 26th and close to three dozen people are still thought to be trapped under the rubble.

Rescue teams work long hours trying to free the remaining miners. Photo courtesy of NBC News.

The mine, in North Sulawesi’s Bolaang Mongondow district, is unlicensed.

Abdul Muin Paputungan said all of the emergency service workers helping to rescue the miners “never stop praying that all those still trapped in the mine are able to survive until we can rescue them.”

Food and water have been passed to the miners but rescue workers are concerned about the amount of oxygen available to those still trapped under the rubble.

The mine collapse was due to mining holes and shifting soil, and while it was an unlicensed operation, this kind of business is not unusual in Indonesia. The informal mines provide jobs for local residents, albeit at very high safety risks.

Over 200 emergency service workers from different organizations have been on the ground working since the collapse. They have been using any and every resource available to them, including tree branches and twine to construct stretchers.

Because the mine is in such a remote location, it has been difficult for rescue crews to receive the help and tools needed to free the miners, frustrating the rescue teams and families of the miners’ while also prolonging the rescue process. There is also the possibility of inducing a landslide, further trapping the miners and endangering the lives of the rescue workers.

As the number of people working in informal mining operations increases, events like the collapsed mine in Indonesia may become more frequent. The Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals, Metals and Sustainable Development published a study estimating that more than 40 million people work in unlicensed mines, an increase from 30 million people in 2014 and 6 million people in 1993.

This news was initially published by the Associated Press.