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Teen missing following Preah Vihear mine collapse

One villager in Preah Vihear province’s Rovieng district has been missing since late Sunday after a tunnel leading into a mine once thought to contain gold crumbled and trapped him inside, area officials said yesterday.

Eighteen-year-old Thy Nath and 50 others from Trapang Tuntem village were scavenging for gold inside a tunnel at the bottom of Ang Long mountain, according to Rom Tom commune police chief Sin Thon.

“They were searching the mine that is some one hundred metres long when a landslide collapsed and they ran for their life. Only one remains missing,” he said, adding that about 40 authorities, including police and military police, were assisting in the search.

“The area is rich with gold mines, and these villagers are poor, so they need to look through the resource-rich mines to survive.”

Ros Sambor, one of the survivors of the accident, claimed that every day and every night, between 50 and 100 villagers explore the area for gold. This time marked the first incident.

“We were going inside, and after going for about 20 meters, a landslide fell down on Thy Nath, and four others were with us. We escaped” but Nath did not, he said.

Kong Makara, director of the provincial mines and energy department, was on his way back from a meeting in Phnom Penh yesterday and said he had just heard about the incident.

Asked about the area where the accident occurred, he said that a Chinese firm completed some exploratory work at the foot of the mountain a few years ago. The company, he said, dug big holes leading all the way to the foot of the mountain, and left without covering them up. Locals and migrant workers eagerly climbed in hoping to find small fortunes.

He could not remember the name of the company.

“We educated the miners, four or five of them already, but they haven’t listened to us. It’s difficult, because there is no law to take action against villagers who were just using their hands to search for gold,” he said.

Officials are using an excavator to look for the missing teen, but so far, no deaths or injuries have been reported.

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