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'Happy tears' as Peru miners are rescued after six days trapped underground

Martin Mejia / AP

An unidentified miner, left, is helped by an emergency worker after being rescued from the Cabeza de Negro gold-and-copper mine in Yauca del Rosario, Peru, on Wednesday. They had been trapped there since April 6.

ICA, Peru -- Nine workers trapped inside an abandoned mine in southern Peru were rescued and brought to daylight early Wednesday after spending almost a week underground.

The men had been stuck about 656 feet below ground since the so-called "wildcat" copper-and-gold mine partially collapsed on Thursday. They had been receiving oxygen and liquids through a giant hose that was in place before the accident at the Cabeza de Negro site.

"All of them are healthy but obviously dehydrated and dizzy," President Ollanta Humala said. "They need to get used to the sun still, that's why they are wearing sunglasses."


Miner Jesus Japatinta said he was overwhelmed after walking out alive.

"I spilled tears, happy tears," he said.

Humala, who witnessed the rescue operation, warned informal miners to stay away from abandoned mines like Cabeza de Negro, saying they were dangerous.

PhotoBlog: Peruvian miners rescued

The mine is located 4,400 feet above sea level on a mountainside about 175 miles southeast of Lima.

On Sunday, Peru's government appealed to mining companies for heavy equipment. Until then, several dozen rescue workers had used pickaxes and shovels to try to remove the 26 feet of collapsed earth and rock blocking the entrance of the mine.

The cave-in spurred calls to formalize Peru's vast informal mining sector, which generates as much as $2 billion a year in income, according to private estimates.

Mining is the main engine of Peru's economy, accounting for more than 60 percent of its exports. It is the world's No. 2 copper exporter after neighboring Chile and ranks sixth in gold exports.

According to official figures, 52 miners died in Peru last year in work-related accidents, a third of them in mine shaft collapses.

Reuters and The Associated Press contibuted to this report.

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