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BANYUMAS, Indonesia – Eight people trapped in an illegal gold mine on the Indonesian island of Java were feared dead, a local rescue official said on Sunday, as search efforts entered a fifth day with little progress.

Unlicensed mines – many with disregard for basic safety measures – are common across the mineral-rich South-east Asian archipelago and accidents are frequent.

The workers were digging inside a hole with a depth of 60m in Pancurendang village in Central Java on Tuesday evening when water suddenly flooded the illegal mine.

Rescuers had deployed water pumps round the clock and worked to dam a nearby river in a frantic bid to get the water out of the mining shaft but it remained flooded on Sunday.

“This is already the fifth day. We expect the bad news that the victims have died,” local search-and-rescue agency head Adah Sudarsa told reporters on Sunday.

Mr Sudarsa said the rescue effort would continue until Tuesday in the hope of retrieving the miners’ bodies, which were yet to be found.

The authorities had planned to deploy divers to find the miners, but local rescue official Priyo Prayudha Utama told AFP that “it was not possible” because the mine shaft was too narrow.

Most of the trapped miners had moved from West Java to mine in the region, police said.

Last Friday, police charged four people with allegedly operating the mine without a permit.

The suspects, including one who remains at large, face up to five years in prison and 100 billion rupiah (S$8.8 million) in fines.

In 2021, six people were killed on Sulawesi island after an illegal gold mine collapsed.

At least 16 people were killed two years earlier when another illegal gold mine on the island collapsed and buried the workers.

In 2016, 11 miners died after a mudslide engulfed an illegal gold mine in Sumatra’s Jambi province. AFP Eight trapped in illegal Indonesia gold mine feared dead: Official

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