- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 11, 2012

ICA, Peru (AP) — Nine Peruvian miners were rescued Wednesday after six days trapped in an abandoned copper mine.

The nine, ranging in age from 23 to 58, walked out without assistance about an hour after dawn from a reinforced tunnel that rescuers had built as they removed more than 26 feet of dirt and rock.

The miners wore sunglasses and were covered with blankets. President Ollanta Humala greeted them after he spending the night at the mine, located 150 miles southeast of Lima.

The miners were trapped by a cave-in triggered by an explosion they themselves had set. They communicated with rescuers through a hose, in place before the collapse, by which they also received food and medicine during their ordeal in a horizontal shaft dug into a mountainside.

“It’s pretty ugly inside,” one of the rescued men, Edwin Bellido, told RPP radio. “We slept on the ground on muddy plastic.”

He said the miners kept their spirits up by telling one another jokes, singing and running in the 160-foot-long tunnel.

The Cabeza de Negro mine that they were working was abandoned in the 1980s.

Mr. Humala said the incident points up the dangers of working such mines in Peru, in which tens of thousands are engaged. He said he had given instructions for Cabeza de Negro to be sealed definitively.

The rescue drew some comparisons to the 69-day ordeal of 33 Chilean miners trapped more than 2,000 feet underground in 2010 near the Chilean city of Copiapo.

The Peru rescue was not by any measure a comparable engineering feat because the miners were not similarly trapped deep beneath the earth. Neither heavy equipment nor drilling was required to extract them. Rescuers relied primarily on shovels, pick axes and wheelbarrows.