Rescuers were closing in on nine workers trapped inside a wildcat mine in southern Peru on Tuesday.
The men have been stuck about 200 metres below ground since the Cabeza de Negro gold-and-copper mine, 280 kilometres southeast of Lima, partly collapsed on Thursday. The trapped workers have been receiving oxygen and liquids through a giant hose in place since before the accident. Dozens of rescue workers have been using pickaxes and shovels to try to remove the collapsed earth and rock blocking the entrance of the mine.
"We have a couple of metres left to go," Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino said on Tuesday to reporters at the site monitoring the digging operation. "We've advanced six metres in a tunnel that's eight metres long."
Peru "doesn't have a specialized team for mining rescues," said Jose de Echave, a former deputy environment minister.
The cave-in spurred calls to formalize Peru's vast informal mining sector, which generates as much as $2-billion (U.S.) a year in income, according to private estimates. Mining is the main engine of Peru's economy, accounting for more than 60 per cent of its exports. According to official figures, 52 miners died in Peru last year in work-related accidents, a third of them in mine shaft collapses.