Sarajevo: Four people illegally extracting coal from an opencast mine in Bosnia have been killed in a slag heap slide, authorities said Sunday.
The bodies of the victims were found buried under the mine waste after a day-long search and taken to Tuzla university hospital for an autopsy, police spokesman Izudin Saric told reporters.
Officials said the accident occurred late Saturday in Dubrave, near the north-eastern town of Tuzla, after residents from neighbouring villages entered the mine`s extraction zone with two tractors once miners had left for the day.
A survivor alerted the authorities.
The bodies were found "under some 4,000 to 5,000 m3 (141,259 to 176,573 cubic feet) of coal waste that collapsed," mine inspector Nuraga Duranovic said.
The accident coincided with a 3.6 magnitude earthquake that shook the region around 2130 GMT but Duranovic said "we haven`t established yet if it was the cause of the accident, or (whether) the coal waste slid because of its own weight."
With nearly 40 percent of Bosnia`s population unemployed, illegal mining has become a common practice, despite repeated warnings from the authorities about the danger of amateurs rummaging around mines.