According to reports, at least 20 coal miners were killed when the mine they were working in collapsed in northern Afghanistan.
It was unclear what caused the accident on Saturday afternoon. President Hamid Karzai called for a full investigation and sent the minister of mines to the scene, a remote village of Ruyi Du Ab in the northern province of Samangan, the New York Times reported. Investigators and officials were trying to determine how the mine collapsed and whether there were more miners trapped in the rubble.
Conflicting death tolls emerged after the collapse. Villagers from the surrounding areas came to the aid of the miners, but at least 14 were sickened by the toxic fumes emanating from the site, said the deputy police chief of Samangan, Col. Musadiqullah, who goes by a single name.
Information on the owner of the mine was not immediately available.
The mining industry is central to efforts to convert Afghanistan from an extremely small export country into a larger, more sophisticated economy, capable of financing itself. Most of the economy is dependent on foreign aid.
But efforts to ramp up mining development have been stymied by slow progress on the administrative front and, in certain places, insurgent activity.
The mining sector remains in its infancy, though the ministry has tendered bids for copper, gold and other mineral exploration throughout the country, from Ghazni to Badakshan.
As the mining sector transforms from its developing world infrastructure and sophistication, with poor safety protocols and outdated technology, the hope is that the government can produce enough minerals to sustain itself, though that day is likely to be years away, experts say.