Sarajevo: At least four people illegally extracting coal from a ground level coal mine in Bosnia are thought to have been killed by a large slag heap slide, authorities said today.
Officials said the accident occurred late yesterday 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.
"We suppose that the bodies are under some 4,000 to 5,000 m3 (141,259 to 176,573 cubic feet) of coal waste that collapsed, but we haven't found them yet," mine inspector Nuraga Duranovic told public television station FTV.
The accident coincided with a 3.6 magnitude earthquake that shook the region around 10:30 pm (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."
Excavation efforts to find the bodies that began at dawn are still underway, with local media quoting a survivor saying four men were killed in the slide.
With nearly 40 per cent of Bosnia's population unemployed, illegal exploitation of mines has become a common practice, despite the danger and constant warnings by authorities.