Freelance miners working for Minero SA of Colombia knew of the dangers of working in El Comal, a gold mining area in northern Nicaragua, the Associated Press reported. However, the miners, 26 of whom became trapped in the mine Thursday morning after a landslide blocked their exit, said they could make slightly better money there.
"They told us digging here was risky, but sometimes one is willing to risk it for a few more cents," Absalon Toledo, leader of the informal miners, told the Associated Press about working for Hemco, which is owned by Minero SA. The company said it had recently become aware of the dangers of working at El Comal after two men died in a landslide at the mine last month, the BBC reported.
Two more Nicaraguan gold miners were freed Saturday as the second day of rescue efforts continued, bringing the total number of gold miners rescued to 22. Four miners are still missing, reports said.
Rescuers dug away through the night on Friday at the wall of rock and mud that formed the blockage, managing to free 20 of the 26 miners who were on the other side. All of the miners were freelance workers who were not directly employed by the mining company.
Rescued miners said they were fearful. "The sadness of feeling yourself trapped in a hole is immense but I never lost hope," a 32-year-old miner who was taken to a hospital in the town of Bonanza, near the mine, told the AP. "I kept thinking I was too young to die and above all, I thought about my two daughters."
Families of some of the rescued miners greeted them as workers pulled them from the mine. Paramedics took the miners to a hospital about 260 miles (420 kilometers) away in Bonanza; 20 of them were released by Saturday afternoon.