Explosion at Colombian coal mine kills nine workers, traps six

Rescue efforts at the La Mestiza coal mine. (Image by the Colombian Civil Defence Department, Twitter).

Nine miners have died and six remain trapped following an explosion at the La Mestiza coal mine in Colombia’s northeastern El Zulia municipality.

About 70 search and rescue personnel, among them staff from the National Mining Agency (ANM), the Red Cross, the local and regional police, and the army, have been working at the mine since the accident took place last Monday. 

According to the ANM, high methane concentrations caused an explosion at the underground operation. The flame and pressure of the gas combined with coal dust caused a landslide and high concentrations of carbon monoxide, which trapped the workers inside the mine.

Even though the mine’s ventilation system has been reinstalled and additional blowers and extractor fans were put in place, the emergency teams say the rescue operation is slow and risky as the area presents an average inclination of 70°, it is prone to landslides and water leaks, and there is coal dust everywhere.

“The ANM deeply regrets these events, expresses its condolences to the families of the victims and ratifies its commitment to continue with the search and rescue efforts for the missing workers,” the agency said in a media statement. “The mining authority also calls on titleholders and miners across the country to continuously monitor gas and CO concentrations in all underground operations. [The mining authority] also notes that even though gas and CO concentrations may meet regulatory levels, it is important to carry out daily monitoring of all safety procedures before the workday begins.”