Moscow (AFP) - Russian diamond giant Alrosa said Saturday it had ended its search for eight miners trapped by flooding earlier this month, saying there was no hope of finding survivors.
"Three weeks have passed since the accident," said a statement from the company. "Medical experts believe that a human cannot survive for so long without water or food in humid conditions."
Conditions for the search and rescue teams had also become more dangerous, the statement added.
The crater above the mine had accumulated 37,400 cubic metres of water and "threat of a flash flood of this water into the mine makes it impossible to carry out any underground works."
The company has been searching for the men since the initial accident on August 4, when they were caught out by rising floodwaters.
But Alrosa president Sergei Ivanov said in the statement: "I have to say with a heavy heart that there is no hope left to lift the workers remaining in the mine to the surface.
"We are deeply shaken by what happened," he added.
The company said it had continued the search around the clock for three weeks, sending miners and rescue workers 550 and 600 metres (yards) underground to clear soil blocking the tunnels.
They had unblocked more than a kilometre, the statement added.
But they had never managed to make contact with the missing miners, water had started to rush into the crater from another reservoir and they had been unable to either stop the flow or pump it out.
On Friday, the company announced it would pay a total of 14.4 million rubles (about $245,000) to the relatives of the eight men lost. They company has published the names of the lost miners.
When the accident happened, 151 people were working at the site, of whom 142 managed to get out immediately and another miner emerged a day later, suffering from hypothermia.
Alrosa is Russia's largest diamond producer and the Mir mine, in the Sakha region some 4,000 kilometres east of Moscow, produces a million tonnes of diamond ore per year. Last year it produced 3.19 million carats of diamonds.
It is an opencast pit with a diameter of over a kilometre, making it one of the largest man-made holes on Earth.