First of 22 Chinese miners trapped in gold mine rescued

A miner who was trapped underground in a gold mine for more than two weeks in eastern China has been rescued, Chinese state media reported.

He was lifted to safety at 11:13 a.m. local time in the city of Qixia, Shandong Province, and was in an “extremely weak condition,” according to state-run news wire Xinhua. State broadcaster CCTV said he was sent to hospital.

Twenty-two miners were believed to be inside the mine when an explosion blocked their exit on January 10.

One miner is believed to be dead after sustaining a head injury in the blast, state media said. Ten people are stuck in the mine’s chamber 600 meters (1,969 feet) underground, but they are in contact with the outside world because rescue workers were able to drill a channel into a section the mine and install a telephone line, according to Xinhua. The fate and whereabouts of the other 10 is unknown.

The individual rescued Sunday was not among the 10 miners in contact with rescue workers, authorities said.

Efforts have been underway to reach the workers since the blast occurred about 240 meters (800 feet) from the mine’s entrance, but Chinese officials said Thursday it could take 15 days to drill through 70 tons of debris trapping many of the miners.

Food, medical supplies, blankets, and batches of nutrient solution have been passed down a shaft to the 10 workers who have been located. They are in good physical and psychological condition, Xinhua reported.

According to state media, rescue teams are hoping to pull the miners out through a 711-millimeter (28-inch) diameter passage. By noon Thursday, rescuers had drilled 18 meters into the mineshaft but heavy debris could slow efforts.

Concern has been growing for the uncontacted miners. Some of the workers in the chamber are trying to help rescuers locate their missing colleagues by using laser pointers and loudspeakers, but they have received no response, Xinhua reported.

Rescuers have also drilled smaller channels into other sections of the mine and are lowering nutrient solutions and other means to detect breathing or movement, but no signs of life have been encountered.

Rescue workers are reported to have first heard knocking sounds from those trapped on January 17, followed by pulling on iron ropes. On Monday, miners were able to get a note to rescuers. Xinhua quoted the note as saying: “We are heavily exhausted and in urgent need of stomach medicine, painkillers, medical tape, external anti-inflammatory drugs, and three people have high blood pressure.”

Explosions and deaths are not uncommon in Chinese mines. In September, at least 16 workers in southwestern China died after they became trapped underground in a coal mine and exposed to unsafe levels of carbon monoxide, state media reported.

And in 2016, dozens of workers were confirmed dead after a gas explosion at a coal mine in the city of Chongqing.