Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province in northeast Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan Image Credit: Courtesy of Google Maps

KUNDUZ, Afghanistan: At least 40 people have been killed as a gold mine caved in on Sunday in northern Afghanistan, authorities said.

Ten others were injured in the incident, which happened as they searched for gold in the Kohestan district of Badakhshan province, Afghan parliament member Fawzia Koofi said in a statement, CNN reported.

Provincial official Nek Mohammad Nazari said all of the victims were mine workers.

Earlier reports quoting provincial head of Natural Disaster Management Authority Sayed Abdullah Hamayon Dehqan said several people were killed and injured as a landslide hit Kohistan district.

"The tragic incident happened around 10.30am local time in Shipo area of Kohestan district when more than 50 people were busy in illegal digging of a gold mine there and almost all of them were buried alive and so far 20 bodies and seven injured persons have been discovered," Dehqan told Xinhua.

Rescue operation for discovering the remaining people was going on, the official said, adding the number of casualties might go up.

At least 30 people were killed when a gold mine collapsed in northeastern Afghanistan on Sunday, officials said, in the latest tragedy to strike the war-torn country.

Another seven were injured in the incident in Kohistan district of Badakhshan province, district governor Mohammad Rustam Raghi told AFP.

Villagers had dug a 60-metre (200-feet) deep shaft in a river bed to search for gold. They were inside when the walls fell in.

"The people were using an excavator to dig a big hole in the river when it collapsed, trapping dozens of workers," Raghi said.

"At least 30 people have been killed and seven wounded."

It was not clear why the shaft collapsed, but the provincial governor's spokesman Nik Mohammad Nazari told AFP the miners were not professionals.

"The villagers have been involved in this business for decades with no government control over them," Nazari said.

"We have sent a rescue team to the area, but villagers have already started removing bodies from the site."

Defense ministry helicopters have been dispatched to deliver cash to the families of the victims and airlift the wounded to hospitals, said Hashmat Bahaduri, spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority.

Bahaduri confirmed the casualty toll, but warned the figures could change.

Families of the wounded will receive 10,000 afghanis (about $130) in compensation, while those of the dead will get 50,000 afghanis, he said.

Badakhshan is a remote, mountainous province in northeast Afghanistan bordering Tajikistan, China and Pakistan.

The impoverished region is prone to landslides, particularly in the colder months when heavy snow blankets the province.

Illegal mining is common in resource-rich Afghanistan, with the Taliban relying on the sector for much of its revenue.

But most of the country's minerals remain untapped as the raging conflict and lack of regulation deter international miners from exploiting the huge reserves.