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Peru miners rescued; kidnappers hold gas-field workers

April 11, 2012 |  7:25 pm

  Peruvian president and rescued miners

LIMA, Peru -- Nine Peruvian miners trapped for six days in the collapse of a copper mine were rescued Wednesday, most walking out under their own power and wearing sunglasses against the light.

"Mission accomplished!" proclaimed President Ollanta Humala after the rescue at the mine in the southern region of Ica. Humala had flown to the zone the day before to oversee the rescue operation.

Rescuers were able to communicate with the trapped miners with a hose they lowered into the pit. It was also used to send oxygen, liquid nourishment and medicines.

The mine was not operating with proper permits, and Humala said the cave-in underscored the dangers faced by so-called informal  miners. Illegal mining, said to produce as much as $2 billion in metals annually, also does terrible damage to the environment and public health, his government has said.

Wednesday's rescue echoed the 2010 evacuation of 33 Chilean miners who had been entombed half a mile below ground for more than two months.

But as Peruvians celebrated the good news, another crisis was still playing out.

In the Andean region of Cuzco, 36 workers for gas-extracting companies have been kidnapped by guerrillas from the resurgent Shining Path group, officials from the firms said Wednesday. They have been held at least two days, and on Wednesday the government declared a 60-day state of emergency for the zone, which makes it easier for the army to deploy.

An estimated 550 army and police troops have fanned out through the area in search of Shining Path camps.

About 30 heavily armed guerrillas burst into three hotels and seized 39 workers. Three were released.

Shining Path emerged in the late 1970s as a Maoist faction aimed at toppling the Peruvian government. It was largely wiped out in the last two decades but has recently made a comeback, including being involved in drug trafficking.

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-- Adriana Leon

Photo: Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, center, waves alongside nine miners rescued in the Ica region. Credit: Cris Bouroncle / AFP/Getty Images

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