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Heavy snowfall disrupts rescue of workers trapped at Mandalay’s mine in Chile

Cerro Bayo mine is located in Aysén, a province sandwiched between the Northern and Southern Patagonian Ice Fields, which collectively is the world’s third-largest source of fresh water. (Image by: Felipe del Valle | Wikimedia Commons.)

Heavy snowfall in Chile’s southern region of Aysén has complicated efforts to rescue two miners who have been trapped for a week at Mandalay Resources’ (TSX:MND) mine, after the section in which they were working was flooded.

The Canadian company said a landslide on June 9 at a section of the Delia mine, part of its Cerro Bayo gold and silver complex, sparked the flooding from a nearby lake, leaving two workers trapped underground.

It’s unknown whether the missing miners, identified as Enrique Ojeda (34) and Jorge Sánchez (25), are still alive as authorities have been unable to make contact with them.

Operations have been suspended since June 9. Rescue efforts are focused on diverting the water and trying to make contact with the shelter.

Rescuers believe they might have reached an emergency shelter, which is located some 200 metres underground and about 50 metres from the site of the landslide, local news site El Mostrador reported (in Spanish).

They added efforts continue to be focused on diverting the water and trying to make contact with the shelter, as the miners have less than three days left of air.

Mandalay’s stock has dropped almost 20% percent since the accident and was changing hands Friday in Toronto almost 7% lower than Thursday closing price, at 42.5 Canadian cents at 1:00PM.

The unfolding event recalls the 2010 mining accident in northern Chile, when 33 miners made world headlines after they survived in an emergency shelter for more than three months before being rescued.

Mandalay said Thursday it was “doing everything possible” to locate the two miners, noting that the presence of water and disturbed material has made the task “extremely complicated.”

It also said Chile’s government had declared a “State of Constitutional Exception” for the commune of Chile Chico, in which Cerro Bayo is located. This allows authorities to control the site, allocated funds for extra help and coordinate search efforts.

Cerro Bayo mine, which produced around 14,000 ounces of gold and 1.7 million ounces of silver last year, is located in Chile’s Aysén region, the country’s least populated, but one with abundance of lakes and glaciers.