Close to 30 killed in Afghanistan mine collapse

An Afghan miner unloads coal from his donkeys outside a mine in Samangan province on April 3, 2012. Qais Usyan / AFP - Getty Images, file

KABUL, Afghanistan - Close to 30 coal miners were killed when a mine in the north of Afghanistan collapsed, officials said Sunday, raising fears about the safety of workers in a vital sector of the country's economy.

The 27 coal miners were killed in the Ruyi Du Ab district of Samangan province on Saturday, said Sediqullah Azizi, a spokesman for the province's governor. An initial investigation suggested that the mine's entry and exit tunnel collapsed, trapping the workers inside, he said. An additional 20 miners were hurt and received treatment at a local hospital.

The bodies of the dead had been removed from the mine and rescue workers were still searching for any others who might be missing, Azizi said. 

According to Reuters, the government of Afghanistan, one of the world's poorest countries, has said it expects to earn as much as $4 billion a year in revenues from mining in the decade from 2014, when most Western forces are due to leave.

But lax safety standards also dog the country with some mines using children as young as 10 in spite of regulations forbidding child labor, Reuters added. 

Reuters contributed to this report.