Rescuers in Indonesia try to reach eight workers trapped in illegal mining hole

Rescuers prepare to save miners trapped at an illegal mining area in Banyumas (Agus Fitrah/AP)
Rescuers prepare to save miners trapped at an illegal mining area in Banyumas (Agus Fitrah/AP)

Indonesian rescuers have upped their efforts to save eight miners trapped in a pit at an illegal mining area since Tuesday.

A joint search and rescue team has brought in six larger submersible water pumps to suck water from the hole and is trying to close off openings where water is seeping in from the groundwater basin.

Small pumps on Wednesday failed to lower the water level.

Adah Sudarsa, head of the local search and rescue office, said: “We will do further assessment when the water entry points have been closed and the puddles are dry.”

The workers became trapped in the hole, which is 60 metres (196ft) deep, on Indonesia’s main island of Java after water suddenly inundated the mining area in the hours after they entered.

A miner who was outside the pit in the Banyumas district saw water building up in a pit nearby and asked the eight workers to get out.

Another worker checked later and saw the miners still in the hole, which was flooding.

They tried to extract water using a water pump but the water had not receded, Central Java police spokesman Stefanus Satake Bayu Setianto said in a written statement, adding that the gold mining area has no licence.

Landslides, flooding and tunnel collapses are some of the hazards miners face in Indonesia, where small artisanal and often unauthorised mining operations can be found.

Much of gold ore processing involves highly toxic mercury and cyanide and workers frequently use little or no protection.

Ten miners died in a coal mine explosion in the West Sumatra province in December.

In February 2019, more than 40 people died after a makeshift wooden structure in an illegal gold mine in the North Sulawesi province collapsed because of shifting soil and a large number of mining pits.