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Coal mine explosion kills 12 in Colombia

31 August 2021

A coal mine explosion in the Boyacá region of Colombia killed 12 workers on August 24. Colombia’s National Mining Agency (ANM) said that 13 people were initially trapped by a blast at La Carbonera coal mine, however 12 lost their lives while one was seriously injured.

Image: ANM Colombia
Image: ANM Colombia

La Carbonera mine is located near the town of Tópaga, around 140 miles north of Colombia’s capital Bogotá. ANM ordered an immediate suspension of all mining activity at the mine after it was notified of an explosion. In a statement, the agency said that the explosion likely involved methane gas and possibly coal dust.

"Once the call for help was received, the ANM activated the emergency care protocol and carried out the displacement of rescuers and equipment from the Nobsa Mining Safety and Rescue point to attend to the emergency," reported Juan Miguel Durán, President of the National Mining Agency. "The rescue team worked on the ventilation installation to improve atmospheric conditions and search and rescue efforts with the support of respiratory equipment," Durán added.

The rescue operation was carried out in conjunction with other relief organisations, including the mine operator, Tópaga Mayor's Office, local police, the Red Cross, and Civil Defense.

The ANM said that a security measure had been placed on La Carbonera mine in 2019 which prohibited any coal extraction work taking place. In a follow-up statement following the blast, the agency said that its technical findings from a site visit showed that permissible limit values ??for polluting gases in the mine were not being met, which is why all work was suspended. The order was reiterated last year, however the order was breached and mining continued.

The ANM says that in many cases, security and safety measures are often ignored and miners continue to carry out mining activity in risky conditions, ignoring the ANM’s ban. The agency added that in 2021, about 60% of fatalities in Colombian mines occurred during illicit mining. The ANM’s President Durán said: "The ANM deeply regrets the events recorded in these emergencies, takes the corresponding actions and calls on all miners in the country to abide by all the safety protocols required so that these accidents can be avoided."

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