Three of the 12 mining workers, who were trapped after a coal mine collapsed in the north-western state of Antioquia, Colombia, have died.

Authorities are now investigating how the mining workers died, whether it was due to inhaling toxic fumes, or the explosion inside the mine due to a build up of gases, according to Latin American Herald Tribune.

"Rescue operations are being carried out by a 20-member specialised team of police, defence workers and firefighters in Amaga, Colombia."

The head of the provincial disaster management office, Cesar Augusto Hernandez said that the mine is in the hamlet of Puerto Berrio.

Associated Press reported Colombian Ministry of Mines and Energy as saying that the collapse occurred at 4pm on Thursday.

Following the collapse, there was a sudden gush of water into the mine. Air in the tunnels is now contaminated beyond the permitted limit, the ministry official said. Officials are attempting to pump the air out, but fear rescuing the trapped workers is too difficult.

Rescue operations are being carried out by a 20-member specialised team of police, defence workers and firefighters in Amaga, about 240km north-west of the Colombian capital, Bogota.

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Antioquia governor Sergio Fajardo stated: "This work is very complicated. I have never seen a situation like this. The conditions are very precarious."

The governor added that it may take three days for the rescue team to reach the trapped miners.

In June 2010, 60 miners were killed in a similar accident that occurred in the same region.