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At least 27 dead in Afghanistan coal mine collapse

KABUL (Reuters) - At least 27 miners in Afghanistan have been killed in a collapse in a coal mine, officials said on Sunday, in an accident likely to reinforce worries about a sector that many Afghans hope can underpin the country's development.

The collapse occurred on Saturday evening in the northern province of Samangan, said provincial governor's spokesman Sediq Azizi

"Rescue teams have recovered 27 dead miners and there are 22 more wounded," Azizi said. District police chief Akram Behzad said all trapped miners had been rescued.

Afghanistan is estimated to be sitting on as much as $1 trillion in untapped mineral resources but decades of war and instability have kept most investors away.

The government says it expects to make as much as $4 billion a year in mining revenues in the decade from 2014, when most Western forces are due to leave, compared with less than $150 million from its resources sector last year.

The U.S. Pentagon said in a in 2010 briefing paper Afghanistan's main resources were iron ore, with an estimated value of nearly $421 billion, and copper deposits valued at $273 billion.

But insecurity has hampered investment. Last year, work was halted at China Metallurgical Group's $3 billion Aynak copper mine in the eastern province of Logar following attacks.

Safety standards are also often lax in Afghanistan, with some mines employing children as young as 10 despite government regulations forbidding child labor, the government has said.

(Reporting by Zakaria Nasiri; Writing by Dylan Welch; Editing by Robeert Birsel)

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