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One Miner Killed, Others Trapped In Abandoned Uzbek Gold Mine

SAMARKAND, Uzbekistan -- One miner was reported dead and dozens were feared trapped on January 18 after a partial collapse at an abandoned gold mine in Uzbekistan.

A local police officer in the southeastern region of Samarkand said that some 30 illegal gold miners escaped after the collapse on January 16 in the mine that used to belong to the state-owned Navoiy Mining and Metallurgy Combine.

He said some 20 others failed to surface and remain trapped underground in the mine.

Police at the Paxtachi district police headquarters said they had received no report of a mine collapse in the area.

Speaking to RFE/RL on condition of anonymity, a government official in the Paxtachi district said on January 18 that local people have been trying to rescue the trapped men themselves and have not reported the accident to police.

"Illegal gold miners' relatives usually do not refer to officials in such cases because it is illegal to extract gold from the abandoned mine," the official said.

The official estimated that about half of the district's residents are involved in illegal gold mining due to high unemployment.

Navoiy Mining and Metallurgy Combine is one of Uzbekistan's biggest mining companies and among the world’s top uranium and gold producers.