An aerial view of the site where rescuers try to reach miners trapped after an explosion at a coal mine in Sutatausa municipality in the department of Cundinamarca, Colombia on March 15, 2023. (PHOTO / AFP)
BOGOTA – Ten miners reported missing after an explosion caused by accumulated gas in coal mines in central Colombia have been found dead, raising the death toll to 21, authorities said on Thursday.
The explosion in several adjoining coal mines took place late on Tuesday in a rural area of Sutatausa, about 75 km north of Bogota.
Serious accidents are common at open pit and subterranean coal and gold mines in Colombia, mostly at illegal or informal operations and those without proper safety measures
"I have been in communication with Governor Nicolas Garcia, who just informed me that despite all the efforts of rescue teams, unfortunately 21 people lost their lives in the tragic accident in Sutatausa," President Gustavo Petro said on Twitter.
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Every workplace death is not only a failure of companies, but also of society and the government, added Petro, who was elected partly on promises to shift the country from oil and coal, its two top exports, and toward renewable energy.
Activities at the mines have been suspended, the national mining agency said in its own tweet, and an investigation to establish the causes of the explosion will take place before a reopening can be considered.
Serious accidents are common at open pit and subterranean coal and gold mines in Colombia, mostly at illegal or informal operations and those without proper safety measures.
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There were 117 accidents at mines in Colombia last year, according to the agency, killing 146 people.
The deadliest recent accident was in June 2010, when 73 people were killed in a mine explosion the northwest.