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Gold mine collapse in Uzbekistan kills one, about 20 trapped

Image of the Muruntau Mine in Uzbekistan, the 2nd largest gold mine in the world.

A collapse at an abandoned gold mine in Uzbekistan has resulted in one death and roughly 20 trapped underground.

Radio Free Europe reported on Thursday that around 30 illegal gold miners managed to escape after the cave-in in Sarmarkand – located in the country’s southeast. About 20 could not make it back up to surface. The mine used to be run by state-owned Navoiy Mining and Metallurgy Combine but it has since been abandoned.

Local people are trying to rescue the miners and the incident has not been reported to police due to the illegal nature of the mining, according to RFE. The area suffers from high unemployment and many people mine illegally.

Mining is a big source of revenue for Uzbekistan with Navoi Mining and Metallurgical Combinat controlling 48 mines and processing facilities producing copper, lead, molybdenum, zinc, bismuth, tellurium, bismuth and uranium mines besides precious metals. The country is the world’s number seven producer of uranium and 12th largest producer of gold.

Muruntau, the world’s largest gold mine, produces more than twice as much as its nearest rival (and at some of the cheapest cost per ounce anywhere in the world), and the mine also boasts the planet’s largest reserves of roughly 170 million ounces.

The Muruntau mining complex consists of a huge open-pit mine measuring 3.35km in length, 2.5km width and a 560m depth, making it one of the deepest in the world.