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More Dead in Colombia Mine Collapse

The death toll in a collapse at an illegal gold mine in western Colombia has risen to at least 12 as searchers continued to dig for bodies Sunday, a local official said.

The collapse occurred Wednesday night as tons of mud and rock slid down the side of an open pit mine near Santander de Quilichao in Cauca department, burying men and women working below.

Three bodies were recovered shortly after the collapse but the search for further victims was slowed by the large amount of debris that covered the bodies, according to Víctor Antonio Claros, the fire department commander in Santander de Quilichao.

Searchers found eight more bodies Saturday and another Sunday. Claros said that at least four miners remained missing.

Illegal mines are common in Colombia, where poor people flock to the work despite the dangers. The mines are often controlled by guerrilla groups or criminal gangs, pollute the water supply and disfigure the landscape.

The government has been unable to curb the problem. The authorities raided the mine where the collapse occurred in February, seizing some of the backhoes at work there. But the mine continued operating.

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