Mining officials in Colombia have now confirmed the deaths of nine miners while another six remain trapped underground at the La Mestiza coal operation in El Zulia, northeastern Colombia, following a gas explosion, fire and tunnel collapse.
The National Mining Agency (ANM) said the explosion on 30 May resulted from high concentrations of methane. Search and rescue efforts have been ongoing since the incident, despite gas buildups and heavy rains, and per the BBC have reportedly reinstalled the ventilation system at La Mestiza and boosted it with fans and additional blowers.
“It should be noted that the conditions of the place have a very high level of difficulty due to the presence of landslides, coal dust and water leaks, in all the work[ings] of the mine,” ANM said. “Likewise, the work presents an average inclination of 70 degrees that demands, among other things, the application of safe rescue procedures at heights.”
The mine is being operated legally. It had been idle since 2019 due to high gas readings, but last month was given the green light to restart operations, as noted by mining secretary Jhon Olivares to the BBC.
Sources: Agencia Nacional de Minería and BBC News