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Published: Wednesday April 16, 2014 MYT 10:15:30 AM
Updated: Wednesday April 16, 2014 MYT 10:16:45 AM

Recovery effort underway after two die in Australia coal mine

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia-listed Yancoal Ltd said it was working with authorities to recover the bodies of two workers killed at its Austar coal mine in eastern Australia, which has ceased operations.

The fatalities occurred late Wednesday when a wall supporting the underground coking coal mine about 240 kilometres (150 miles) west of Sydney gave way, trapping the two men about 500 metres (1,640 feet) below the surface.

Mining stopped as recovery efforts were initiated, according to Yancoal, which is majority owned by Yanzhou Coal Mining Co, China's fourth-largest coal mining company.

Police said it could take a number of days to recover the bodies because large amounts of coal and mining equipment needed to be removed first.

New South Wales Police Superintendent Garry O'Dell said six colleagues tried unsuccessfully to help the trapped miners.

"The other miners attempted to render assistance to those men and unfortunately were unable to do so ... they had to come out of the mine due to their own safety as well," he told local media from the mine.

An underground fire under a previous owner closed the mine in 2003.

Authorities determined the fire at the then-called Southland mine was caused when combustible ore spontaneously ignited.

Yancoal bought the mine in 2004 and renamed it Austar.

Prior to Wednesday's incident, the last recorded fatality at an Australian coal mine was in November 2013 when a light vehicle collided with a truck at the Ravensworth mine owned by Glencore Xstrata.

In 2010, a methane explosion at New Zealand's Pike River coal mine killed 29 trapped workers.

(Reporting by James Regan and Colin Packham Editing by Stephen Coates)

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