Four dead in Colombia mine collapse, 11 still trapped

RIOSUCIO, Colombia (AFP) - Colombian rescuers said Friday they have found four bodies in a collapsed gold mine, as they searched for another 11 missing workers.

The unlicensed mine on an indigenous reservation in the central Colombian town of Riosucio collapsed on Wednesday.

Authorities are investigating its owners.

The first two bodies were spotted Thursday. Rescuers found two more two hours later, sapping the hopes of anxious relatives that more of the missing might still be found alive.

The workers are believed to be trapped in mineshafts 17m below ground.

The bodies were taken to the city of Pereira for the identification process.

Search and rescue operations are due to be completed over the weekend, according to government disaster relief agency UNGRD.

The mine collapse occurred after a power failure prevented the operation of the pumps that drew water from the nearby river Cauca.

The head of the National Mining Agency told Radio Blu the organisation would investigate the mine, which was in the process of legalisation but was prohibited from digging the shafts that were involved in the collapse.

Investigators say a power cut in the area likely shut off the mine's water pumps, flooding the shafts and leading to the collapse.

The workers at the mine had no formal contract with the company for their high-risk work, the mining agency said in a statement.

Colombia is a major gold producer and business has boomed over the past decade as the price of gold has risen from less than US$400 (S$527) an ounce to almost US$1,200.