A member of a rescue team raised hopes on Monday that there may be survivors at a Zambian mine where more than 30 informal miners have been trapped under debris for days and were presumed dead after heavy rain caused landslides.

Rescuers have been searching for the miners since early on Friday after they were buried on Thursday night while digging tunnels at an open-pit mine near the city of Chingola in the country’s copper belt.

Wiva Chanda, an informal miner who is helping with the rescue effort, told the Associated Press: “We are getting close and expect to find survivors as there is some voices we are hearing from one of the tunnels.

“There is hope but I think it will be a mix of survivors and dead bodies.”

Zambia Mine Collapse
Rescuers have been searching for the miners since early on Friday (AP)

Chingola District Commissioner Raphael Chumupi said at least 36 miners were buried in three separate tunnels while they were digging for copper ore illegally at the Seseli mine without the knowledge of the mine owner.

Zambian government officials said more than 30 miners were trapped under the landslides but could not give an exact number.

Police have said all the miners are suspected to have died and named seven of them as confirmed fatalities. But no bodies have been retrieved and the Zambian government said it would be premature to say how many have died.

Zambian Vice President Mutale Nalumango said in a statement that rescuers are still removing debris and pumping water out of the tunnels in the hope of finding some survivors.

“Their condition remains unknown,” she said of the miners.

Rescue efforts are being hampered by more rain and one of the three sites where rescuers are working is completely waterlogged, she said.

Zambia Mine Collapse
Government officials and miners at the copper mine in Chingola (AP)

The army is also helping with the rescue effort.

Zambia is among the top 10 copper producers in the world.

Chingola, which is around 250 miles (400km) north of the capital, Lusaka, has large open-pit copper mines surrounded by huge waste piles of rock and earth that has been dug out of the mines.

Informal mining is common, where artisanal miners dig in search of minerals, often without proper safety procedures.