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At least 27 dead in Afghanistan coal mine collapse

Another four miners were critically injured when part of the Abkhorak coal mine collapsed on top of them.

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A coal mine is pictured in Samangan province, north of Kabul on August 7, 2012. At least 27 miners were killed when a Samangan province mine collapsed on Saturday evening. (QAIS USYAN/AFP/Getty Images)

At least 27 miners were killed when a coal mine in northern Afghanistan collapsed on Saturday evening, officials said on Sunday, in an accident likely to reinforce worries about a sector that many Afghans hope can underpin the country's development.

Emergency teams rushed to the site of the Abkhorak coal mine, 300km northwest of the country's capital, Kabul and have rescued the rest of the trapped miners.

"They were working in a coal mine when part of the mine collapsed on them. We are heading to the scene for further investigation," Samangan province governor's spokesperson Mohammad Seddiq Azizi said, adding that 22 other miners had been injured.

Four of them were critically wounded.

Workplace safety standards are often lax in Afghanistan and fatal accidents like this one are common.

"Most of those injured are locals who rushed to the site to help those trapped in the mine," said Al Jazeera's Jane Ferguson, reporting from Kabul.

"These mines are often rudimentary, almost makeshift, in the way they are held up with wooden sticks - such incidents do happen here."

Afghanistan is estimated to be sitting on as much as $1 trillion in untapped deposits of copper, iron ore, gas, gold and oil.

But decades of war and instability have kept most investors away.

The government says it expects to make as much as $4 billion a year in mining revenues in the decade from 2014, when most Western forces are due to leave, compared with less than $150 million from its resources sector last year.

Some of the problems facing mining operations became clear last year when security concerns, archaeological discoveries, and disagreements with the government over a railway project shut down work at the Chinese-run copper mine, Mes Aynak.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/afghanistan/130915/at-least-27-dead-afghanistan-coal-mine-collaps