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Lima, Peru – They’re free!
Nine copper miners trapped since April 5 in the Cabeza de Negro mine in Peru have been rescued, according to press reports.
Peruvian President Ollanta Humala was present to greet the miners when they emerged, wearing sunglasses, Wednesday morning. They were unhurt, reports say.
Emergency workers had lowered a hose into the cavern, which collapsed for as-yet unknown reasons. The hose was used to provide oxygen, water and food to the miners.
Humala praised the work of private companies and public employees who made the rescue possible.
“Today is a moment of pride for Peruvians, the professionalism of Peruvians is what has made possible the rescue of our compatriots from the depths of the mine,” Humala said.
Peru's government had asked local mining companies for heavy equipment and experts to free the men.
Several dozen rescue workers used pickaxes and shovels to try to remove the 26 feet of collapsed earth and rock blocking the entrance of the mine, whose horizontal shaft is dug into a mountainside 175 miles southeast of Lima.
Fellow miners from two nearby mines arrived to help in the effort.
While local firefighters fashioned wooden beams to support the debris removal, Mining Minister Jorge Merino expressed fear that those crude efforts would be insufficient.
The collapse on Thursday occurred following a blast set-off by the miners themselves. The informal mine was last used commercially in the 1980s.
Rescuers communicated with the miners through the hose.
Officials worried about how the men would fare in the low temperatures underground.
The industry is crucial to Peru's economy, accounting for more than 60 percent of its exports. Following Chile, Peru is the world's No. 2 copper exporter and ranks sixth in gold exports.
According to official figures, 52 miners died in Peru last year in work-related accidents, a third of them in mine shaft collapses.
One of the most high-profile mining incidents in Latin America occurred in 2010, when 33 Chilean miners were trapped 69 days inside a copper mine. Televised images of their rescue were watched worldwide.
"Los 33," as they became known, filed negligence lawsuits demanding $10 million from the bankrupt mine's owners and $17 million from the government for failing to enforce safety regulations, but years remain before any payout.
This story contains material from The Associated Press.