ICA, Peru - Rescuers were closing in on nine workers trapped inside a wildcat mine in southern Peru on Tuesday and officials said they could be pulled to the surface within hours after spending five days underground.
The men have been stuck about 200 meters below ground since the Cabeza de Negro gold-and-copper mine partially collapsed on Thursday. They have been receiving oxygen and liquids through a giant hose in place since before the accident.
"We have a couple of meters left to go," Mines and Energy Minister Jorge Merino told reporters at the site monitoring the digging operation. "We've advanced six meters in a tunnel that's eight meters long."
The cave-in spurred calls to formalize Peru's vast informal mining sector, which generates as much as $2 billion a year in income, according to private estimates.