A rescue operation was under way Sunday to free a miner who has been trapped for seven days in an underground gold mine on Halmahera island in Indonesia’s North Maluku province.
Solo drill operator Mursalim Sahman, 36, is reportedly in good health despite being trapped in a mining chamber 300 metres underground and has maintained contact with his family using a newly installed phone line.
The Gosowong gold mine is operated by PT Nusa Halmahera Mineral (NHM), a joint venture between Australia’s Newcrest Mining, which controls 75 per cent of the shares, and state-owned miner PT Aneka Tambang.
“Earlier this morning we broke through into the chamber where Mursalim is located after completing the boring of a 70-centimetre diameter hole approximately 38 metres deep. This is a significant milestone in developing our primary rescue option,” Newcrest managing director and CEO Sandeep Biswan said in a statement released Sunday.
“Before we attempt the extraction, we will need to line the bore hole so that we can safely bring Mursalim up. It is expected that lining the hole will take several days,” Biswan said.
Local news web site Viva.co.id reported that there were 50 miners who were working in the Kencana underground mine tunnel when it collapsed on Monday, but 49 managed to get out, while Mursalim, who is a native of Halmahera, failed to do the same as he was manning heavy machinery.
The rescue operation has been under way since then. Operation of the company’s underground mines, which produce gold and silver dore, has been halted in the meantime.
A spokeswoman for NHM, Herastuti Haryogyo said the company was able to establish first contact with Mursalim Wednesday at around 10:00 Eastern Indonesia Time (WIT) since the collapse through a 54-meter bore hole with small diameter.
According to the company, Mursalim told the rescue team that he has some food and water supply to go by underground.
The company said a “geotechnical” event of unknown cause spurred the mine collapse, which occurred at 8:30 pm on Monday.
NHM workforce is about 1,700 employees and contractors. It produced 331,555 ounces of gold as of June 2015.